Do we need a “Syllabus” on the Council?

The UK’s best Catholic weekly (which still has its digital subscription special going, a year for a “tenner”!) the Catholic Herald has an article by William Oddie about the proposal made by Bp. Athanasius Schneider about a Syllabus both of errors and of guidelines concerning the interpretation of Vatican II.

My emphases and comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is the need for a new Syllabus, this time directed not so much against the errors coming from outside of the Church, but against the errors circulated within the Church by supporters of the thesis of discontinuity and rupture, with its doctrinal, liturgical, and pastoral application.

“Such a Syllabus should consist of two parts: the part that points out the errors, and the positive part with proposals for clarification, completion, and doctrinal clarification.”

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

[...]

Pio Nono was fighting for the Church’s life. Under the circumstances, the famous article 80 of the Syllabus – which condemns as an error the proposition (with which, presumably, most Tablet liberals would enthusiastically agree) [Tabula delenda] that “The Roman Pontiff may and ought to reconcile himself to, and to agree with, progress, liberalism and modern civilisation” – seems not only reasonable enough but beyond any question; it might be added that it is also entirely relevant to our own times: as Pope John Paul often said, Christians today are called on to be “signs of contradiction” in the face of secular culture. Article 80, in fact, sums up succinctly the real point at issue, even today, between the Church and the modern world.

It is particularly relevant to the erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council which Bishop Schneider has called on Pope Benedict to correct in a new Syllabus. I very much hope the Pope responds to this call; and that the new Syllabus will be as relevant to the Church in this new post-conciliar situation as the original Syllabus of Errors was in its own day and remains even now. I also hope that one day quite soon he will announce the forthcoming canonisation of that great and holy man, Blessed Pius IX.

Such a Syllabus would be useful.

No?  Yes?

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52 Responses to Do we need a “Syllabus” on the Council?

  1. Geremia says:

    AMEN!!! This would be long overdue!

  2. Pigeon Street says:

    I think such a document would be very useful but it would need to be approached with extreme caution. I’d probably wait until the time is right and enough sound people are in the right places to make sure such a project would not go astray in any way whatsoever. It wouldn’t want to be any sort of compromise document.

  3. frjosh says:

    Absolutely, if for no other utility than to counter the “spirit” of the Council with the Council’s actual intent.

  4. Yes.

    The same thing was besought of the Holy Father by Monsignor Brunero Gherardini in his 2009 book, The Ecumenical Vatican Council II: A Much Needed Discussion, in which he concludes, “Thinking this over anew, for some time the idea has come to me — which I now dare to submit to Your Hoiness — of a grand and possibly definitive ordering of the last Council in all of its dimensions and content . . . In passing I mentioned that a possible instrument for ‘reparare omnia’ might be a grand Papal document, destined in history to remain as a sign and witness of Your vigilant and responsible exercise of he Petrine ministry.”

    The book (which has been translated into English but which has been printed very slowly in Italy) is published by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and can be obtained by calling their Academy of the Immaculate Bookstore.

  5. Yes, I am all for it.

    Peter’s voice is needed to hush up those who think they are in the position to tell what we ought to believe!

  6. Central Valley says:

    Needed very much, especially here in Kalifornia. The questions is, would Rome inforce it?

  7. Mitchell NY says:

    I have often posted urging the same thing in the form of an Encyclical, clearing away any false interpretations and instruction on how things are supposed to be done, referring to sprevious and still valid Apostolic Constitutions such as Veterum Sapientia. It is also a good way to teach new comers to the Faith about Popes in history.Once again bringing to the forefront of people’s minds documents with the utmost importance. Now that SP has been issued a renewed focus on VS would appear to go hand in hand. Perhaps with an adendum from our current Holy Father outlining its’ importance and relevance today. A Pontificate aimed at refreshing and reminding us of what has already been legislated and decreed would go a long way in re-establishing out Catholic Identity. There is already a wealth of documents waiting to be re-discovered and sometimes implemented. What a great way to tie and anchor us to our past. We don’t always need something new. Just a fresh coat of clear coat will do wonders to make something shine and become clear once again.

  8. abiologistforlife says:

    If Pope Benedict wrote it, yes.

    Otherwise… well, it depends who would be involved. It would be an easy thing to mess up.

  9. muckemdanno says:

    No. Such a document would be paradoxical. It would contradict the purpose of the Council as stated by John XXIII when he opened that very Council:

    “The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.”

    The Church, because of this “Spirit of the Council,” no longer condemns error. If you think the Church should start condemning error again, great…but then you should admit that it’s time to leave the Council behind.

  10. muckemdanno says:

    Perhaps one of the condemned propositions in this Syllabus of errors regarding the teaching of the Council could read as follows:

    “The Catholic Church should condemn errors regarding the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.”

  11. becket1 says:

    Father, with Bishop Schneider’s call for a new Syllabus. How do you think the NCW is going to react?. I’m puzzled how on one hand the Holy Father approves of the NCW, but on the other hand he is promoting traditional practices and theology. I’m getting very confused on all this. Yes I am all for it. But I think it needs to be turned into an encylical and given out to every parish for parishinors to read.

  12. Oneros says:

    I have to agree with muckemdanno. It reminds me of what Arturo Vasquez said about this on his blog Reditus:

    “For a council that explicitly aimed to convince rather than condemn (seen in the tragicomic governing style of John Paul II – except if you were a Marxist), the final farcical act would be to use authority for anti-authoritarian purposes (‘I said be convinced about our communion of love, dammit, or you’re out of the Church!’)”

    I think we just need to move BEYOND the Council. Stop trying to “correctly implement” it. If it didn’t define any dogmas or make any mandates binding on a Pope (and Councils can’t bind a Pope on purely disciplinary questions), then speaking of a “true interpretation” is meaningless. Councils aren’t Inspired. Forget about chasing that rainbow. Let’s just say: it’s 50 years later and the world has new situations, so we’re just going to do what’s needed TODAY and not worry about trying to square it with the non-dogmatic ramblings of “the Council” as if our hands are tied by it somehow.

  13. Warren says:

    Was Jesus too condemning when He made a whip and drove the money changers out of the Temple? Should we be any less vigorous in our defence of the Lord’s Church?

    Given the mess that has arisen, it seems only prudent that a syllabus be written. Just as Divino Afflante Spiritu clarified Catholic biblical exegesis, and in so doing excluded false interpretation, a new encyclical clarifying authentic principles for interpreting the Council, accompanied by a syllabus as described, would be a useful sword of truth to slice away the rot of dissent and heresy clinging to the flesh of the Body of Christ, the Church.

    As good Pope Benedict XVI has so eloquently reminded us on many occasions, the disease of relativism must be countered with reason, the truth spoken in love. False teaching and false interpretations of the Council should be cut away like cancerous growths. Just as Liturgiam Autheticam “… set forth authoritatively the manner in which the provisions of article 36 of the Liturgy Constitution are to be applied”, we need a document that explicitly sets forth correct interpretations of the Council and thus provides the authority to exorcize the illegitimate teachings.

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s not so much time to “leave the council behind,” but time to put that council in the context of all the other councils, since it has legitimacy for exactly the same reasons as each and every one of the other councils, and not one iota more legitimacy than any other one of them. Then if interpretation of V2 carefully in the light of all the other councils means that we have to “leave it behind,” then so be it.

    The problem is that for this comparison-of-sorts to be done, a person has to come to the task theologically and with timeless eyes, and without his own prejudices interfering. Most of the men running the Church now had too much to do with the council to be able to do this. Pope Benedict is among the most-level headed of men, but he will not be able to do it completely either because it would mean turning his back on far too much that has been written in the last 50 years and would cause too much turmoil now, even if he really does believe it must happen, which it must. Too many people are still living who “have a dog in the fight.” This strict accounting that will eventually have to happen will take place after the current generation has died off. Unfortunately, that probably means I won’t see it in this life either. [Note: but perhaps I am seeing the start of straightening it all out, the stage being set, in a preliminary "filtering" way. 20 years ago to talk the way we all are would have been unthinkable to most Catholics.]

    This process has happened many times after councils, where these comparisons are done, and parts of the latest councils are declared non-binding. There are 21 councils in total. The council of Constance was in part revoked and the Council of Basle was in part revoked. It could happen again. It may well be that parts of V2 could also eventually be revoked. Only time will tell.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, per my previous comment, there is no “correct implementation” that violates previous councils. If V2 is valid, then it is valid for exactly the same reason every other council that is still valid is so.

    And if V2 is valid, then it is no more valid than the others just because it happens to be the latest–that’s only 20th century secular thinking there. Truth, including religious truth, doesn’t change just because we might think we do. [Actually the opposite it true. The latest is constrained by the former in this case, particularly when the former are venerably respected councils whose writings have help up for centuries.]

  16. David Collins says:

    I’m not sure about this idea of Christ exercising authority through written texts. There are idiots who will quote from Pope Boniface VIII’s text Unam Sanctam to prove that salvation is impossible for non-Catholics.

    Yes, of course, ignoramuses have no business interpreting texts; that’s the Church’s job. But how on earth is that done? By laymen reading encyclicals and other texts who then argue about it until, eventually, a consensus is reached?

    It seems to me we simply have to trust that our bishop knows very well what our Lord is calling us to do. If he is wrong about something, well, it is on his conscience, not ours. Thus I have spent all this time to tell y’all that I am indifferent to whether or not the proposed syllabus is written: )

  17. MWP says:

    Yes, definitely, though even (re-)reading the old Syllabus would make a huge difference, as Oddie does in the article. That’s good for starters. There are so many forgotten Church documents out there. The Syllabus is relevant to our times. And no, it does not “condemn”, but rather it shows which prevailing patters of throught are irreconcilable with the Magisterium of the Church. Church documents are like good wine, but we need to get them out of the cellar first (thanks to FatherZ for that!). Same for the Syllabus Errorum. Dropping the Syllabus as a benchmark for Catholic academic throught was a huge mistake, it should have been enlarged during V2 to include the new heterodoxies of the sixties. Now we can think what the Syllabus Errorum 2.0 should contain that is not in the old one… for my part, I think the names have changed but the heresies are still the same.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    David,

    Christianity, as practiced in its quintessential form, which is Catholicism, is both historical/textual AND lived. Not Either/or but Both. Yes, you listen to licit authority in the Church, but for the reason just stated, the texts are important also, the degree of importance based on the origin of the text.

    People who just listen to other people, even if they do have authority, and don’t tend to the truth claims and historicity of the church RISK falling into paganism. (which happens to Catholics occasionally!)

  19. PghCath says:

    Yes, if only because I want this Pope to give us the definitive statement on the Council. Not only is he Benedict “Hermeneutic of Continuity” the Sixteenth, he also played a major role in the Council, giving him a unique ability to explain it.

    Beyond this, a Syllabus would help the many Catholics who think the only problem in the Church is sexual abuse. Many have been spoon-fed “spirit of Vatican II” nonsense by their priests for years. A papal document criticizing Marty Haugen or emphasizing the special and sacred nature of the priesthood would anger many, but at least it would get the truth to people in the pews who don’t read blogs like this. Perhaps it would get some of them to question Father about his “I ? Liturgical Dance” bumper sticker.

  20. catholicmidwest says:

    And David, if your bishop is a good one and tells you to do something that squares with tradition and Church teaching, you definitely should do it. Most of the time the directions of bishops are like this, so the presumption is that you obey your bishop.

    But if he tells you to do something that is in contradiction to church teaching, or something morally bankrupt, which sometimes happens, you should NOT. Example: cover up a crime. You have a brain; you are not a robot. You are responsible for the things you do, just like everyone else is. The Catholic church never requires that you check your brain at the door.

  21. robtbrown says:

    True liturgical reform must precede any such document. Otherwise, it would be like a coach telling players not to smoke while at the same time providing free cigarettes.

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    Robtbrown,
    *That* is probably the best analogy of the post-V2 situation I’ve heard in a while.

    Dissidents say, “don’t pay any attention to Rome; we call our own shots here.” Meanwhile the normal laity are doing their own thing with jobs and solving problems and so on, not keeping up with technical developments and not very well taught anyway. All the while Rome keeps hopefully churning out documents.

    What happens is that the laity don’t know or understand what’s coming from Rome if they ever hear about it; the dissidents say, “See? No one ever obeys that stuff anyway. Good job on ignoring Rome. The Church is here and the bishop/parish/lay minister is the ultimate authority.” Whereupon Rome dolefully issues more paperwork with great hopes.

    The whole thing takes on a self-fulfilling character and unfortunately the advantage is on the side of the dissidents and they know this. They’ve played this game for decades. Organize, organize, promote self-fulfillment in the eyes of the pew-people. That’s the strategy. [The only thing dissidents are flumoxed about is that they thought they had the laity by the hearts/minds/gonads with birth control, but even though they use birth control, most of them don't become true ideological dissidents. HAH! ] Meanwhile Rome is administratively as clueless as ever. Absolutely as oblivious as a wall.

    Three things:
    1) Continuing to do exactly what you’ve been doing but expecting the outcome to be totally different = the definition of stupidity.
    2) The best parental advice: Don’t ever threaten anything you don’t intend to do. {If you do this, your children will ignore you, 100% sure.}
    3) Pay now or pay later. There are no free lunches in this life. If you put off the work that needs to be done, you will do it later, only it will be uglier and bigger and have more bacteria in it. Just do it and get it over with.

  23. Traductora says:

    Several people have brought up the question of “why is this council different from any other,” which I had never considered before. But it is true that it is often treated as differing from (and superseding) any other.

    Perhaps all councils were shocking or disruptive, in their day. However, I would imagine that simply the difficulties of communication and supervision would have prevented the rapid imposition of supposed dictates of any council once upon a time. Vatican II was implemented very rapidly and ruthlessly, which is one of the things that probably makes it necessary to reexamine it now. Was it really implemented, or was something else implemented using it as a pretext? In that case, a syllabus would help.

    But there is also the problem that it was not a doctrinal council, and its main impact was on the liturgy and the Eucharist. Yet once these are destroyed or damaged, the entire doctrinal structure is shaken without even having had to be the direct objective. The Protestan “Reformers” knew this and that’s why they took aim right off the bat at Catholic liturgy, paraliturgical worship and the concept of the Eucharist. However, all of these things were also the target of the conciliar “reformers,” and they succeeded even more dramaticallyand more rapidly than the Protestant “Reformers” in nearly destroying Catholic worship and all the doctrine simultaneously informing and depending from it. Therefore, is a syllabus really enough?

    Or is the real problem not the council itself (which as many people have pointed out, didn’t say much of anything earth-shaking), but the 1970 missal? A syllabus deals with concepts but the result of Vatican II was practical and virtually physical, and it can all be traced to the 1970 missal. Perhaps if we just ratcheted back to the 1965 missal, which was a slightly simplified EF mass that could be either in the vernacular or in Latin, either ad orientem or not, etc., we could start again, but without having to specifically reject Vatican II (after all, the 1965 missal was issued as a result of Vatican II) and bring on the fury, finger-pointing and animosity that would inevitably result. So perhaps the problem is not the council, but the missal, in which case a different approach is needed altogether.

  24. catholicmidwest says:

    The commonality between what you said and what Robtbrown and I said is this, Traductora:

    We all recommend starting with a liturgical reform and putting some real teeth into the implementation. We say don’t harp in the background so your children ignore you. Stand up and insist, calling loitering bishops to Rome at their cost for an explanation of their indolence, if necessary. Appeal to the laity where they are and beguile them to their best instincts, which are generally good and holy, if uneducated. Start with the positive and come out great guns. Make this one count.

    THEN, once you have their attention, go through the claims of the church and put V2 into perspective, as it must be. Don’t be negative; accentuate the positive and replace the lesser with the greater. The bulk of the church will love it.

    There was supposed to be no monumental rupture in the Church. There was an experiential one and that can never be taken back, it’s true. But the understanding of who the church is and what she is about must be repaired, ie continuity must be made. The Church will go on. How well she goes on in the near future will depend on how well this is done.

  25. catholicmidwest says:

    Why the liturgy? There are many reasons, but the most practical of them is this: The mass is the only contact point the church has with many people anymore. They go to mass on Sunday and that’s it for the week for many Catholics. In fact, many of them don’t go weekly, but instead only now and then. But a move in the liturgy will reach them all and pretty effectively. Everyone who’s ever been Catholic, and many who have not, know the words by heart and expect them in their gut never to change, anything Rome might say notwithstanding.

    When Star Wars first came out in the local theaters, I went to the first showing. In the dark, with a room full of strangers, the words came from the screen, “The force be with you.” Immediately and confidently, the words came from the audience of the general public, “and also with you.” Shock, and then peals of laughter. I think that was one of the selling points for that movie, although in those days no one wanted to say that. It *was* very funny. Liturgical changes will get peoples’ attention, guaranteed.

  26. Sid says:

    Yes. And I’d like first to see a Green Paper of it .

  27. Jason Keener says:

    I think such a Syllabus would be useful, but I don’t think the timing is right. I’m afraid such a document might only cause more confusion because I doubt that it would be written with absolute clarity and force as was done in past centuries. It’s unfortunate that the Church now usually speaks only with the medicine of mercy and that She does not point out errors as clearly and forcefully as She once did. Sinners need both anathemas and mercy. Things become very lop-sided when you have one without the other.

    In any event, wasn’t the purpose of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church to definitively state what Catholic teaching is? I find the Catechism to be fairly clear for the most part.

  28. Yes, I believe the syllabus would be needed, but I agree that it would only be useful if it was clear on the issues about which errors abound and about which clarity, or at least a greater degree of clarity, is possible.

  29. bmccoy says:

    Yes, but it must be very clear, you give them an inch and they take a mile.

  30. Giambattista says:

    Yes. We are 40+ years beyond the council and nobody can agree on what it means. A few more years and nobody will be able to explain it because they will not have been there.

  31. St. Rafael says:

    Vatican II is indeed a different council from the 20 previous councils.

    The previous councils from Nicea to Vatican I were dogmatic infallible Councils. They were created to adress a controversy or error in the Church. They defined dogmas. They invoked the Holy Ghost and infallibility in their definitions. They issued anathemas. Their docuements were issued in canon style, much like modern state statues and legal definitions.

    In contrast to all this, Vatican II was a completely new type of council. A “pastoral” Council that defined no new dogmas or used any infallibility. The Council did not adress any error or controversy such as Modernism or Communism. The Holy Ghost was not invoked for protection, nor the Holy ghost used for infallibility in the documents themselves. There is nothing protecting the documents from error being contained in them. The documents themselves were written differently than any other Council. Instead of canons, they were written in essay form because they were merely pastoral to be used as “pastoral advise.”

    Because of the errors from a non-dogmatic, non-infallible council, Vatican II will ultimately be revoked and discarded by a future Pope after Pope Benedict, in the coming years and decades. There is no such thing as the “Spirit of Vatican II.” Only the errors of Vatican II itself, and its mistake of ever being called.

  32. JonM says:

    No, there should be no ‘Syllabus.’

    The Church, because of this “Spirit of the Council,” no longer condemns error. If you think the Church should start condemning error again, great…but then you should admit that it’s time to leave the Council behind.

    Precisely, categorically, absolument!

    Any ‘correction’ would serve the dual purpose of 1) being another unnecessarily long, convoluted, and vague declaration 2) continue to legitimize this Big Lie that Vatican II was a dogmatic council.

    We are in the midst of not some reinvigorated faithfulness, but rather what appears to this Catholic convert to be perfectly in the pattern of what Mary warned at La Salette, Fatima, Akita, Kibeho.

    The Second Vatican Council was a definite rupture. No, it did not happen in a vacuum and this has been the trend, frankly since Avignon. As the Church continued to lose temporal power and Catholic states opposed her efforts to put down the rebellion (ehem, France), it became only a matter of time before evil burnt out stable Catholic monarchies.

    But if we stay within the past 100 years or so, with the liturgical reform movement inexplicable concessions were made to that notorius Freemason in 1955. With that test, and the growing strength of humanistic tendancies (Americanism, European socialism, Sillonism), the floodgates burst open in the 1960s.

    If one does not accept that we are in the midst of diabolical deception, I can only say you are either misled on the nature of the world and the mission of the Church, delusional, or refusing to admit how dismal things are.

    There is simply no way to ‘salvage’ something like Nostra Aetate or Dignitatis Humanae. There is no ‘addendum’ that can make declarations like these work.

    And meanwhile, after all these social justice claims that a new Church was needed to improve life, we find ourselves on the cusp of the entire Western World declaring bankruptcy. In Europe and America, young people have meager chances at meaningful work and thus despair and depression are common place.

    It isn’t simply Rome: the Parish level is often so mismanaged that it is appalling. In all due respect, this is often because a very femine feel permeates the contemporary Church. Younger people do not associate with the Church because to so many, they only see their hypocritical parents play acting – and incompetent at that. Oh, and because nothing is comdemned as sin, there is no fear of hell, and our society is virtually constructed around sex and greed.

    My solutions are simple:

    Instill in our families traditional Catholic ethos

    Liturgical reset c. 1954

    Scrap the non-dogmatic disaster of Vatican II

    Restoration of minor orders so parishes can be administered seriously, not managed as an aged Baby Boomers pet

    Teach the truth in the light of the natural progression of those who adjusted their lives to the Faith, not the Faith to their lives.

  33. Oneros says:

    There is all this concern with showing that Vatican II was in continuity with previous teachings, but maybe it wasn’t. There are some matters (like how to interact with other religions) which are mere prudential questions of diplomacy/politics/administrative tactics etc. On these, the institutional church CAN and clearly DID make a 180-degree turn. And they should just admit that rather than try to do all these mental gymnastics to square and circle and “reconcile” say, Dignitatis Humanae, with the Syllabi. Just admit this is a mere prudential question, that the two approaches ARE very different, but that both are potentially valid (in different circumstances), and that Catholics are free to disagree about what is the best approach for the modern day, or about whether the approach called for by Vatican II and used since is still best (or even if it was EVER prudent).

    Let’s not try to “spin” continuity into existence where there isn’t any. Some things just changed (but they weren’t the unchangeable dogmatic sort of thing). There can be no discussion about whether these were GOOD changes until we admit they were huge changes. Let’s get it over with.

    Furthermore, let’s not pretend the mere disciplinary suggestions of the Council were mandates which tie our hands until…when? The next Council? No. That’s why talk of trying to create the “true” liturgical reform that Vatican II called for irks me. The true implementation is, by definition, the one the Pope approves. Paul VI approved the Novus Ordo. Did it go seemingly beyond what was called for in Sacrosanctum Consilium? You bet. But then, the Pope is free, on purely disciplinary questions like this, to go further than a council suggests, to be more conservative than a council suggests, to modify a council’s suggestions, or to ignore them completely, when it comes to the liturgical implementation.

    I’m not saying I support the Novus Ordo, just that “what the Council ‘really’ intended” is a meaningless concept; there were 4000 bishops there. Some (like Lefebvre) probably imagined nothing more than some minor changes, maybe vernacular propers. Others (like Bugnini) obviously DID have the Novus Ordo in mind. Others probably imagined something like the 1965 books. Other bishops probably had no concrete vision and just signed onto vague notions of “reform.”

    As such, rather than worrying about trying to implement “the true liturgy of the Council” the Pope should worry about WHAT IS BEST LITURGICALLY FOR THE CHURCH’S NEEDS TODAY. Who cares whether that’s what the Council “really envisioned” or not. The Council exists for the good of the Church, not the Church for the good of the Council…

  34. Yep, we need a syllabus. But if it is not to go the way of other worthy Church documents and just simply be ignored, we also need for our shepherds to take their rods and their staves that give us courage out of mothballs. In Light of the World, Pope Benedict comments (in particular connection with the abuse scandal) on the disastrous results and implications of the refusal to apply the Church’s penal laws. The defining of errors in the wake of Vatican II must come with teeth.

  35. Tony Layne says:

    Oneros makes some good points. But I still think a syllabus is a good idea, not to “spin” V2 or to define the “mind of the Council” but as a teaching instrument to define the limits of the “spirit of Vatican II”. And like others here, I believe it should be clearly and forcefully written, and be given teeth.

  36. robtbrown says:

    St. Rafael says:

    The previous councils from Nicea to Vatican I were dogmatic infallible Councils. They were created to adress a controversy or error in the Church. They defined dogmas. They invoked the Holy Ghost and infallibility in their definitions. They issued anathemas. Their docuements were issued in canon style, much like modern state statues and legal definitions.

    Although we tend to know Councils for their doctrinal orientation, not all the documents of previous Councils were dogmatically oriented. For example, although Nicea is known for the Creed, there were also canons that addressed discipline within the Church.

    In contrast to all this, Vatican II was a completely new type of council. A “pastoral” Council that defined no new dogmas or used any infallibility. The Council did not adress any error or controversy such as Modernism or Communism. The Holy Ghost was not invoked for protection, nor the Holy ghost used for infallibility in the documents themselves. There is nothing protecting the documents from error being contained in them. The documents themselves were written differently than any other Council. Instead of canons, they were written in essay form because they were merely pastoral to be used as “pastoral advise.”

    It is not that simple. First, if it is merely a pastoral council, why are there documents called the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium) and the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation (Dei Verbum)?

    Second, all the documents were signed by the pope, which guarantees that they are free from heresy. It doesn’t guarantee that they’re good.

    Third, as I’ve noted here more than once, Lumen Gentium extends the infallible authority of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium.

    On the other hand, I agree with what you say about intention.

  37. SimonDodd says:

    I continue to find unpersuasive the attempts to distinguish (and minimize) Vatican II on the grounds that it was “pastoral” rather than dogmatic.” The distinction seems useful in terms of the interpretation of the council’s documents, but not their authority. Call it what you want, but it was still a council, its documents were still voted on by the bishops and approved by the Pope. And I find it impossible to take seriously the notion advanced by some critics of the council that it will “be revoked and discarded.” The notion seems entirely unrealistic to me.

    At the same time, I don’t know why one would treat a single speech at the council–even from the Holy Father–as being on par with the conciliar documents themselves. That seems to be precisely the same error as the liberals who wish to abstract from the council’s teaching to some nebulous “spirit.”

  38. SimonDodd says:

    RobTBrown, I think the notion is that it was called as a pastoral council, and so–regardless of what the council actually said or did–it cannot be anything but. The theory seems to require the assumption that the Pope had the unilateral authority to bind the council to pastoral matters ex ante, yet the Pope plus the council had no authority to expand its remit in media res, an entirely implausible premise that dooms the theory in my view.

  39. boko fittleworth says:

    Then Cardinal Ratzinger, in his 1982 PRINCIPLES OF CATHOLIC THEOLOGY, described Gaudium et Spes, as well as the texts on religious liberty and world religions as “a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of counter-Syllabus.” G & S, says Ratzinger, “plays the role of a counter-Syllabus to the extent that it represents an attempt to officially reconcile the Church with the world as it had become after 1789.”

    There is, then, shall we say, a tension between Gaudium et Spes and the Syllabus of Pius IX.

    Interestingly, the difference in content is reflected in the difference in form. My guess is that Pope Benedict, as a man of the Council (and also as a professor), is not much given to expressing himself, or the mind or teaching of the Church, in Syllabus form. We’ll see Jesus of Nazareth, Volume 5 before we see a pithy list of condemned propositions from our German shepherd.

  40. robtbrown says:

    SimonDodd says:

    RobTBrown, I think the notion is that it was called as a pastoral council, and so–regardless of what the council actually said or did–it cannot be anything but. The theory seems to require the assumption that the Pope had the unilateral authority to bind the council to pastoral matters ex ante, yet the Pope plus the council had no authority to expand its remit in media res, an entirely implausible premise that dooms the theory in my view.

    The pope does have the unilateral authority for such action. And he exercises it by controlling the topics, the moderators, and making it clear that he won’t sign a document if a certain text if present or another is lacking.

    BTW, my middle initial is E not T.

  41. robtbrown says:

    boko fittleworth says:

    Interestingly, the difference in content is reflected in the difference in form. My guess is that Pope Benedict, as a man of the Council (and also as a professor), is not much given to expressing himself, or the mind or teaching of the Church, in Syllabus form. We’ll see Jesus of Nazareth, Volume 5 before we see a pithy list of condemned propositions from our German shepherd.

    He’s also not much given to expressing himself in the form of G&S.

  42. catholicmidwest says:

    SimonDodd, you said, “And I find it impossible to take seriously the notion advanced by some critics of the council that it will “be revoked and discarded.” ”

    I’ll bet the proponents of the Councils of Constance and Basle thought the same thing about their favorite parts too.

  43. catholicmidwest says:

    Oneros, you said, “There is all this concern with showing that Vatican II was in continuity with previous teachings, but maybe it wasn’t. ”

    It’s not “concern,” and trying to make all the parts fit where they don’t, Oneros. It’s checking to see where there are contradictions, so they can be weeded out and we can have the truth. We can’t have blatant contradictions, period. Christianity isn’t that kind of thing. We have truth claims: always have, do now, and always will. They’re an irreducible part of Christianity.

    To your point, if V2 wasn’t in line with the deposit of Faith, then it wasn’t correct at those points, which means that contradictions exist either with Scripture or with previous councils which are more venerable than V2. The consequence of such a thing would necesssarily have to be the refutation of V2 at those parts.

  44. Oneros says:

    “It’s checking to see where there are contradictions, so they can be weeded out and we can have the truth. We can’t have blatant contradictions, period. Christianity isn’t that kind of thing. We have truth claims: always have, do now, and always will. They’re an irreducible part of Christianity.”

    Yeah, but I’m saying the things that contradict aren’t those sorts of truths. People tend to interpret either the Pius IX teaching on religious liberty, or the Vatican II teaching…as some sort of dogma. Or they try to argue that they’re “both right” somehow.

    The truth is…there is no dogma in the deposit of faith addressing this. We have some principles, like that we are the one true faith, that error has no rights, that temporal happiness is subservient to eternal, and that conscience can never be forced.

    But, as for how to apply all that to specific policy…is up for debate, and there was a major alteration of the church’s tactics at Vatican II.

    Vatican II couldn’t say anything wrong, but that certainly doesn’t mean it said much of value. Certainly not to the point that still, 50 years later, we should be using it as our reference point and prooftexting all current decisions with reference to it.

  45. catholicmidwest says:

    Oneros, your last comment is interesting because I think V2 was a reflection of the ongoing crisis Catholicism has with the modern world. The fact is that much of the church doesn’t know how to interpret the deposit of faith in the current world. I mean there are some things, including those you list, that are fairly easy to see, but there are others which are not. [And I'm not a dissident, jonesing for birth control or some such nonsense. I'm saying that the church doesn't deal well with non-traditional economic situations and work schedules. It doesn't deal well with some of peoples' common but confusing problems in the world. It treats everyone as though they belong to an old eastern European family with tons of members and there are no exceptions, even for people who are solitary converts. It's not user-friendly in the slightest and can be very forbidding to work with, on approach and also once you're in. A lot of the ever-present fighting seems pointless and futile. And Catholics still act like the church is a some kind of museum, even those dissident Catholics hanging on by a rotten thread. Everything for them is referenced to the church perceptions of their childhoods. Most of them are cradle Catholics who don't understand the church really, because many Catholics don't, oddly.]

    And a council wasn’t the right way to deal with this problem. Encouraging people to live holy lives, understanding lives, in a way faithful to the deposit of faith where they are, while taking care of each other, is the way to deal with the problem. But you know, Catholicism is a big formal religion and tends to be very bureaucratic, so we got a council that tended to put people off and confuse people instead. Checking off a box on a form is ALWAYS easier than actually doing something of real value. You know that; everybody knows that; but it seldom prevents them from trying it first. Now that we have the box-checking part over with and it didn’t work, now we need to get down to business and fix some of the messes and deal with this.

  46. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, the non-modern world operated at a pace that admitted the kind of decision-making the church likes to engage in, ie years of deliberation over every single point, big announcements that don’t they don’t intend to enforce, box-checking self-defeating romanita, and trying to decide everything in councils that may take years to complete.

    None of that works any more.

  47. Andrew says:

    Well the response to my last story, prompted me to telephone Bishop Schneider in Kazakhstan. He is extremely courteous, and speaks very good English. The auxiliary bishop is also a member of the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross, a mediaeval religious order.

    Bishop Schneider pointed out to me that in addition to Lima and Bologna, retired Bishop Juan Laise of the diocese of San Luis in Argentina also banned the practice of communion in the hand, but this was before Dominus Est was written, In fact, he even wrote his own book on the subject. Note I do not support where this comes from (because they promote a disapproved apparition). but the people concerned have been kind enough to place this online. This is still the current policy of the diocese. http://www.tldm.org/News4/BishopLaise.htm#PRESENTATION

    In addition to this, the Kazakh episcopal conference two years made a decision to restore communion on the tongue, as the sole way in all the dioceses there.

    Most importantly, Bishop Schneider said to me that his address give no comfort to those who want to minimize the importance of the Second Vatican Council (by comments that it is only a pastoral council etc), and disagree with some of its contents, on the proviso this is a rupture from previous church teaching.

    He said Catholics have an obligation to be loyal to the Church’s Magisterium, and not selectively discount those statements they are not in agreement with. His concern has been the erroneous application of the Council documents, and the need for the Church to outline what the wrong conclusions are, so they can be opposed explicitly.

    But that is a different thing from saying Vatican II doesn’t have to be adhered to.

  48. Yes, we need a document from someone with autority, the Pope, saying that is wrong doing this and that in the liturgy, etc.

  49. scargo says:

    Most definitely, YES!

  50. Centristian says:

    I would be interesting to see how a Syllabus of Errors 2 would read. Well, alas, I think I know how it would read: like a litany of no-nos issued by the very source and inspiration of those no-nos, namely, the Vatican.

    The Church is becoming more and more pschizophrenic because of all this jerking around from the top over the past 45 years. Go right! Go left! Go right! Mass must always be in Latin! Don’t use Latin any more! Use more Latin! Face the people! Now face the altar again! Now face the people but put a big crucifix on the altar! Receive in the hand! No, receive on the tongue! Embrace our separated bretheren! Then avoid them like the plague!

    Catholics may be less and less inclined to hearken to a litany of errors delivered by a Vatican that speaks as though it has not taken any part in the confusion, but has always stood perfectly still, and is now correcting us confused and wayward sheep who have scurried about to and fro, willy nilly, despite the Holy See’s unshakeable stability.

    What the Vatican needs to do–if it wants anyone to listen to it, anymore–is frankly state: here is a syllabus of errors reflecting mistakes that we–not you–WE have made over the pasty 40 years or so. You, the faithful Catholic people of the planet, have been mercilessly jerked around by popes and bishops who cannot make up their minds and who have lost sight of who we are as a Church. I, your pope, was one of those bishops. I am sorry. We have managed, as many of you have noticed, to run the train right off the rails, and you–the passengers of this train–are the ones who have suffered. We aren’t going to scold you for this train wreck, which was obviously not your fault. We are scolding ourselves. Then, once we have issued this syllabus condemning our own foibles, your pope will make it clear that it is time to cut the comedy, to stop the BS once and for all, and to let the Catholic Church be her best self again.

    Also, we ask you to have mercy on your priests: they are our fault, too. We allowed them to emerge from bad seminaries poorly-trained with misguided notions. We do not condemn them, either, but apologize to them for what we have allowed them to become. There is little we can do about them, now, except to pray for them and hope that they occasionally feel inspired to read our latest encyclicals and motu proprios…and perhaps a catechism…but we won’t hold our breaths.

    We look forward to the day when we have, as best as possible, righted all the wrongs, and corrected all our mistakes. That will not be tomorrow, but the first part of the solution is to admit there is a problem…and to admit that it was our own fault, not yours. Yes, you are confused; we know. What we, today, describe as “problems”, “mistakes”, and “errors” we yesterday described as “renewal”, “springtime”, and the “inspiration of the Holy Spirit”.

    “Which is it?” you are asking…those few of you who are even paying any attention to us anymore, that is.