Card. Brandmüller: Vatican II Declarations do not contain “binding doctrinal content”

From Catholic World News:

Cardinal: ‘binding doctrinal content’ not major part of breach between Holy See, SSPX

The Second Vatican Council’s declarations on non-Christian religions and religious freedom do not contain “binding doctrinal content,” Cardinal Walter Brandmüller said at a press conference on May 21. [So we should allow some real flexibility in interpreting it.]

The retired president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, along with Archbishop Agostino Marchetto and Father Nicola Bux, is the coauthor of a newly published book, Le ‘Chiavi’ di Benedetto XVI per interpretare il Vaticano II [Benedict XVI’s ‘Keys’ for Interpreting Vatican II].

Stating that the conciliar documents have differing degrees of authority, Cardinal Brandmuller said that “there is a huge difference between a great constitution and simple declarations.”

“Strangely enough, the two most controversial documents [on religious liberty and relations with non-Christian religions] do not have a binding doctrinal content, so one can dialogue about them,” he continued. “So I don’t understand why our friends in the Society of St. Pius X concentrate almost exclusively on these two texts. And I’m sorry that they do so, because these are the two that are most easy to accept if we consider their canonical nature.” [orrrr… perhaps the easiest not to accept?]

Cardinal Brandmuller added that all the conciliar documents “must be taken seriously as expressions of the living Magisterium,” while Archbishop Marchetto said that Catholics must offer “at least an adhesion of intellect and will” to all of the documents. [A different emphasis!]

“From what I have learned, there must be an acceptance of the Council by those who want to be reunited with the Church,” said Archbishop Marchetto, the retired secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers. “I don’t think the SSPX can say, ‘Well, we’ll set this or that document aside.’

Cardinal Brandmuller said that the Society of St. Pius X, like the Old Catholics after the First Vatican Council, “have in common a rejection of the legitimate developments of the doctrine and life of the Church,” but the Society is not “insignificant” like the Old Catholics. [Indeed!]

“We hope that the Holy Father’s attempt to reunify the Church succeeds,” added the cardinal, who offered a solemn pontifical Mass in the extraordinary form at St Peter’s Basilica last May.

I am wondering if the Press Office will issue a statement.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. ContraMundum says:

    As far as I can tell, the retired cardinal’s opinions also have no binding doctrinal content. If he’s right, he’s not the first to have said this, but whether he’s right or wrong, he does not appear to be offering more than an informed opinion.

  2. Michelle F says:

    I hope they publish that book in English!

  3. Maltese says:

    …but the Society is not “insignificant” like the Old Catholics. [Indeed!]…

    Thank you, Father. I used to vehemently oppose FSSPX when I first entered the Church from atheism. Now I sometimes attend their chapels and think they are game-changers for the Church!

  4. aviva meriam says:

    OK…. I’m seriously confused. There is a LOT of conflicting information about the SSPX and nostra aetate on the web….. and (not counting Williamson’s weirdness) quite a few people make charges of antisemitism against the SSPX. What Exactly is it about Nostra Aetate that the SSPX reject and why? Are the SSPX antisemitic?

  5. jbas says:

    I’m reading Lefebvre’s “Open Letter to Confused Catholics”, which I would not have read before the present possibilities began to present themselves. It helps me understand the Society’s position on Protestants, Jews and ‘pagans’. The attitude seems more balanced than I feared, but I still think some members of the community may lack charity in this regard.

  6. AnnAsher says:

    So do they not contain binding content or must we give our assent? Because it can’t be both. Erg.

  7. AnnAsher says:

    @Aviva Meriam,
    I have read several SSPX publications, including as mentioned above ” letter to confused Catholics”. I do not hear anti semitism. I hear pro semitism, which recognizes the need for the Jews to convert and accept Christ. Regarding the absence of charity, I think, seriousness and an absence of sentimental fluff and sugar can be mistaken as unloving but it is not. This is my personal assessment. If the SSPX reunites; I would send my son post haste on a visit to their seminary.

  8. Bender says:

    Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity. And as such, he takes the broad view, not a narrowly constricted one, with regard to the need for reconciliation of the entire Christian Church, which includes our separated Eastern and Protestant brothers and sisters.

    And the overtures of the Catholic Church toward our separated brothers and sisters goes beyond a couple of documents from the Council — they include multiple magisterial statements and documents since then.

  9. aviva meriam says:


    It may not be that simple…. Back in 2009 the SSPX removed from their website a particular article entitled “The Mystery of the Jews”…. In that article were the following statements:

    “It is public knowledge that the Jewish sector, relatively small compared to the Gentile sector which devotes itself to the creation of wealth, controls especially the financial power that is exercised through banks.”

    “Then these Jews, in the name of their Law, their Torah, and to serve the material interests of their nation and race, demanded the blood of Him who had been promised them as their blessing. They stirred up the Gentiles against Jesus. Using them to carry out their plans, they crucified the One who was to be raised up as a “sign of contradiction”.

    “Judaism is inimical to all nations in general, and in a special manner to Christian nations.”

    “Catholics are not to enter into commercial, social, nor political relations which are bound hypocritically to seek the ruin of Christendom. Jews must not live together with Christians because this is what their own Jewish laws ordain and also because their errors and material superiority have virulent consequences among other peoples.”

    They removed but did NOT repudicate this article, but only after seriously negative publicity. After this publicity the questipon of the society’s position on Nostra Aetate was again questioned.

    So, I guess I really want to know, what is their current position on Nostra Aetate? Do the above mentioned statements reflect their current beliefs?

  10. You can “dialogue” about them… as long as you don’t disagree with them. Huh? This is not supposed to confuse people?

    These guys are searching for a way to explain away the novelties of VCII without having to essentially agree with the rupturists (be they liberals or traditionalists), and they are failing miserably.

  11. Captain Peabody says:

    Isn’t this merely common sense? That a “Dogmatic Constitution” is necessarily “dogmatic” and thus dogmatically binding (which is what a “dogma” is), while a “declaration” is not necessarily so? It seems to me that this is the kind of divvying up we do whenever we read any council, period. When we read the Acts of the Council of Nicea, we accept the anathemas and dogmatic statements as dogmatically binding for all time, while we read the declaration of the Council fathers to the Church of Alexandria as authoritative but certainly not infallible, and we for the most part consign the actual canonical decrees of the Council to the pages of history.

    Likewise, with perhaps the most wretched Ecumenical Council in the history of the Church, which was convened directly against the will of the Pope and the consent of the entire Western Church by a brutal Emperor who kidnapped and mistreated said Pope, held the sessions of the Council almost entirely against his consent, and at one point even (though this is somewhat disputed) matter-of-factly declared that the Pope would be excommunicated, and got the (entirely Eastern and Imperial) Council Fathers to rather tremulously consent to the Emperor’s actions as “congruous to the labours which he bears for the unity of the churches”–I refer, of course, to the Second of Constantinople–we accept as infallible the condemnations of the so-called “Three Chapters,” but we certainly do not accept the various non-dogmatic declarations and decrees of the Imperial Bishops and of Justinian gathered together as infallible (least of all their attempted excommunication of the Pope, which they apparently gave up on almost before they enacted it, the bloody hypocrites).

    It strikes me as simply mistaken to regard Vatican II and the associated problems as somehow without precedent in Church history. God knows the Church has had her share of warfare and scrapes, and even of bad and/or untimely ecumenical Councils (and I am, for the record, not entirely sure that Vatican II was the latter, and almost entirely sure it was not the former). That does not mean that the legitimate authority of these Councils can be denied, or that we have no choice but to either deny the authority of entire Councils recognized by the whole Church and the Magisterium or to accept (for example, going back to the Second Council of Constantinople again) the absurd notions that the Byzantine Emperor has the right and the duty to anathemize, on his own authority, whomever he wishes, and that his calling together of a pack of Imperial Bishops to play his little political games while brutally mistreating the Pope and ignoring the entire West constitutes a good, pious, and just action necessary for the good of the whole Church (as the charming and incessant declarations of that Council would have it).

    This is obviously an extreme example, and I would not at all suggest reading the Declarations and Decrees of Vatican II with the same contempt with which it is (in my opinion) proper to view the non-dogmatic declarations of the Second Council of Constantinople–but then, the point is, since even such extreme examples do not pose a threat to the inviolability of the faith, why should we be worried about such trifling ones? We accept the dogmatic teaching of the Council, judge the rest of it according to Scripture, Tradition, and the continuing interpretation and authority of the Magisterium, and move on.

  12. Clinton R. says:

    Vatican II, the council of Christian disunity! I don’t understand why the SSPX or any Catholic for that matter has to accept Nostre Aetate. That document is largely to blame for the loss of the missionary zeal of the Church Militant. It has been perceived to mean that Jews, Muslims and non Christians do not have to convert to the true Faith. That is uncharitable to them. No one can or should be coerced to become Catholic. However, the Truth should be preached to them and thus one can make his decision according to his free will. If Vatican II is indeed non dogmatic and if there is latitude in the interpretation of its documents, then what does anyone have against SSPX regularization?

  13. St. Rafael says:

    Cardinal Brandmuller added that all the conciliar documents “must be taken seriously as expressions of the living Magisterium,”

    What in the world is the “living Magisterium”? The man doesn’t use the precise definitions and categories for the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Sure, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church exists and always part of the Church, but the term “living Magisterium” is ambiguous, sounds like gobbledygook, and like Modernism (surprise). A “living Magisterium” can change because it’s alive. Notice he doesn’t say it’s dogmatic or part of the Ordinary Magisterium, which is the traditional language and terms.

    The Magisterium of the Church has three parts: Extraordinary, Ordinary, and Authentic.

    Extraordinary Magisterium is Papal Infallibility( hasn’t been used since Pius XII, does not apply to VII).
    The Ordinary Magisterium is ordinary infallible teaching by Popes and bishops united to the Pope, that has been held “always and everywhere” by the Church. Since Vatican II was not a dogmatic council, and it contained no dogmas and definitions, the documents cannot be said to be part of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. Especially since certain parts of some of the documents, seem to contradict previous infallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium.

    Vatican II seems to fall under the Authentic Magisterium. The Authentic Magisterium is any teaching by those who have the authority to teach, that does not fit into the above two categories. Only teachings from the Extraordinary and Ordinary Magisterium are infallible. Anything falling under the Authentic Magisterium is fallible. Any teaching is owed proper assent, but if it contradicts the Ordinary Magisterium and infallible teachings, it must be resisted.

  14. St. Rafael says:

    Cardinal Brandmuller said that the Society of St. Pius X, like the Old Catholics after the First Vatican Council, “have in common a rejection of the legitimate developments of the doctrine and life of the Church,” but the Society is not “insignificant” like the Old Catholics.

    Cardinal Brandmuller is absolutely clueless and shows his ignorance on the teachings of Vatican I.

    The Old Catholics were heretics because they dissented from the dogma of Papal Infallibility defined at Vatican I. Vatican I and Pastor Aeternus contained actual infallible teachings and defined dogmas that all Catholics must believe. Vatican II contained no infallible dogmas and no infallible definitions. There is nothing to dissent from, in the Vatican II documents. There are no infallible teachings which the SSPX can be charged with dissenting from.

    Vatican I teaches as infallible that doctrine can be developed, but this development can never contradict the original meaning of that doctrine. In other words, Vatican I teaches as infallible, that doctrine never changes. Doctrine can be developed for fuller and deeper understanding, but it doesn’t change the doctrine.

    The documents of VaticanII and especially Dignitatis Humanae, Gaudium et Spes, and Nostra Aetate, cannot claim to be legitimate developments in doctrine, when there are serious questions, concerns, and criticisms of their teachings. There is the legitimate position that some of these teachings actually contradict the Magisterium and doctrine. A teaching that changes doctrine or the original meaning of that doctrine is not a development in doctrine, according to Vatican I.

  15. Ambrose Jnr says:

    St Raphael – Isn’t there one dogmatic teaching in VII, relating to the status of bishops? I thought this had been convincingly argued by Cardinal Avery Dulles…could you enlighten us about this?

  16. jesusthroughmary says:

    St. Rafael –

    The definitions of an ecumenical council are also an exercise of the extraordinary magisterium if they are dogmatic.

  17. wmeyer says:

    aviva meriam:

    So, because there are apparently some members of the SSPX whose views are questionable, we should shun them all? Do we not have Fr. McBrien, Sr. Chittister, and other dissidents too numerous to mention?

    As to the documents of V2, I would be pleased to receive a pointer to official teaching on the relative import of them all. Are they all to be taken as doctrinal, or are they of differing stature? And is there a very reliable English translation available?

    There is so much blather on the subject of V2, and I suspect much (most?) of it spouted by people whose knowledge of the Council is limited to what they have read from 3rd party documents, some of which, in my experience, are criminally misleading.

  18. aviva meriam says:


    Please allow me to clarify. Out of curiosity about the actual areas of disagreement, I sought to understand the SSPX positions. There are logical consequences of theological positions taken and defended. Ideas have consequences not only because they shape beliefs, but also because they inspire action. It is my sincere desire to have a respectful discussion not only of those beliefs but also of those logical consequences. That is why I would love to have the SSPX teachings clarified.

    This is not about specific individuals whose statements may be “distasteful”. And I am not arguing that anyone should be “shunned”….. Please don’t misunderstand (and I hope I have not given cause for others to believe I wish to condemn the SSPX in general of anyone in particular).

    The document I quoted was one of 3 from the SSPX that I find difficult to reconcile with my conscience. What I am asking is simple…. because removal of the documents in question from their Website does not constitute repudiation of the document, ergo what does the SSPX believe? What specifically about Nostra Aetate do they reject and WHY? And then, what are the theological consequences?

  19. Texas trad says:

    “Declarations on non-Christian teaching and religious freedom not binding?” Really? Having been on the inside of SSPX for ten years and watching the negotiations with Rome not always seen by the public, I can tell you that the Vatican has never uttered such a thing before. These declarations were always a stumbling block to negotiations. For the cardinal to even put this out to the press, shows that the Vatican has to alter/redefine their stance in order to come to an agreement with SSPX. It speaks VOLUMES of what is about to happen!

  20. JPManning says:

    One cardinal says they are not doctrinal but another says they are. Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says the teachings of Vatican II about other religions ‘are binding on a Catholic.’
    I think the reason we have so many cafeteria catholics is that we have so many cafeteria cardinals.

  21. ivan_the_mad says:

    @aviva meriam: I wouldn’t worry, you “haven’t given cause for others to believe [you] wish to condemn the SSPX in general of anyone in particular”. That is not at all inferable from any of your statements. Often when people see something disagreeable concerning something they like, they can become quite defensive, and impute malice where there is none. I find this especially to be the case concerning the discussion of SSPX and its sympathizers.

  22. SonofMonica says:

    If I were discussing this frankly and matter-of-factly with the Holy Father (not that I ever would be), I would tell him that I can’t imagine that any so-called “irregular” or “problematic” beliefs of the SSPX are any less Catholic than what passes for the average pew-sitter in a given Catholic parish. I don’t see the latter being given any statements to sign, or being the subject of any hand-wringing. This one’s been signed, so let’s not wring our hands.

    But that’s why they don’t let me hang out at the papal apartments and say the stuff that pops into my head to the Supreme Pontiff.

  23. ContraMundum says:

    If the disagreement is about how authoritative the documents produced by an ecumenical council are, what good is it to ask a cardinal, or your parish priest, or a buddy who is in the Knights of Columbus, or, for that matter, a bishop in SSPX? If the authority of an ecumenical council is in question, can anyone but the Holy See clarify that? This sounds like a question for the CDF or for the Pope himself, not for “[t]he retired president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences”.

  24. Supertradmum says:

    wow, so why have we put up with these documents and ideas for so long
    time for a huge rethink

  25. Supertradmum says:

    PS Does that mean we can get someone to re-do the footnotes and some of the commentary in the CCC. please?

  26. ContraMundum says:

    And, according to Duke Ellington, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

  27. Apparently no one has yet quoted Cardinal Ratzinger’s July 13, 1988 remark on this subject to the Chilean bishops conference:

    “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.” (emphasis added)

  28. Elizabeth D says:

    I agree TX Trad, it was clear that if the Church welcomed the SSPX back to full Communion, it would imply the Church understood DH and NA as non doctrinally binding, because it was clear SSPX were not going to budge. An actual statement of this by Cardinal Brandmuller is a relatively unambiguous sign that SSPX is about to be accepted into full Communion and regularized. Anti-Semitism is wrong but I don’t think that objecting to the wording of Nostra Aetete implies anti-Semitism. I also think it’s not outside the realm of possibility to interpret it in a faithful way.

    Supertradmum wrote: wow, so why have we put up with these documents and ideas for so long/time for a huge rethink

    Is it possible the Holy Father also wants the Church directed toward a rethink?

  29. Imrahil says:

    Dear @St. Rafael,

    you’re incorrect in your terms: what you call “Authentic Magisterium” is, of course, authentic, but it is simply the fallible part of the Ordinary Magisterium. The Ordinary Magisterium can be infallible (which is what you call Ordinary Magisterium) but need not.

    That being said, there is no statement in Vatican II that contradicts either Extraordinary Magisterium or Infallible Ordinary Magisterium.

    Nothing of Vatican II had the character of infallibility, though some things had dogmatic content and are hence called dogmatic. A constitution ranks higher than a declaration in the sense that an encyclical ranks higher than an allocution.

    Concerning the bishops, Vatican II affirmed explicitly and unmistakably (but, here as well, without invoking infallibility) what previously had been taught implicitly by Pius XII, and heretofore evolved as leading opinion of the theologians, viz. that their order is a full sacrament. (The consecration liturgy had always had the aura of their sacramentality, and Scripture, Tradition and Trent do favor this opinion, but systematicists had some time disputed this, even St. Thomas in the Commentary on the Sentences.)

  30. aviva meriam says:

    Elizabeth D:
    I agree that one can challenge NA or DH without being an antisemite.
    I guess the question then is: what specifically do the SSPX disagree with in NA and DH?

    Again, if one reads their own documents (some of which have been removed from their website but without repudiation), the accusation of Antisemitism still stands. What exactly do they believe?

  31. Dismas says:

    aviva meriam –

    I find your questions extremely pertinent. It occurs to me, in contrast to what our Magisterium teaches and God promised, that in order to justify a certain line of thinking that seeks to make illegitimate God’s original covenant made with his chosen people, one would first have to make illegitmate what the Holy Spirit teaches and speaks to us through our Magisterium in VCII.

    Who is more inimical to the Christian nations, Judaism or Christians who deny God’s covenants and the teachings of our Magisterium?

  32. ContraMundum says:

    A huge problem in addressing the role of the Jews from a Christian perspective is the vexing question, “Who is a Jew?”

    Sometimes when we use that term, we are talking about those children of Israel who lived from the time of the Patriarchs until the founding of the Church, for example King David, the Prophet Isaiah, and St. John the Baptist. Those Jews are obviously indeed our “elder brothers” or forefathers in the Faith.

    Sometimes when we use that term, we are talking about the people who attend the synagogue down the street, together with the people that they recognize as Jews.

    When dealing with Scriptural references to Jews, it is not really possible to adopt that second, most common interpretation. St. Paul obviously still considered himself to be a Jew, but the folks down at the local synagogue do not consider any converts to Christianity to still be Jews, though they happily accept atheists. From God’s perspective, it is entirely possible that many Christians with Jewish ancestry that has long been forgotten by man still count as Jews.

    It is really impossible to make useful dogmatic statements with poorly-defined terms.

    Ugh! This has been a serious problem for some time. A whole set of problems around the death penalty likewise come from crafting statements that sound meaningful until you try to understand and apply them. Knowing that the death penalty should be rare gives no guidance to any individual case (which must be decided on its own merits), and again, what is “rare”? Like Down Syndrome is rare? (There are far, far more people born with Down Syndrome — even in today’s abortion culture — than are executed.)

    This is not intended to start a thread on the death penalty, but merely to illustrate a trend that I hope will reverse. Fuzzy language is probably well-suited for diplomacy, which has been a major concern of recent popes, but it is useless for dogma.

  33. leonugent2005 says:

    The mass intention at my parish this morning was for Anne Frank and her sister Margot courtesy of yours truly. So they could throw out nostra aetate tomorrow and it would be totally irrelevant to me I’d keep having the masses offered that I always do. I pray for deceased Orthodox priests and bishops as well and never once is the word perfidis used.

  34. Bender says:

    Let’s add the emphasis to the most important part of Cardinal Ratzinger’s comment —
    The truth is that this particular council DEFINED no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council.”

    Let’s also read his remarks (or the remarks of anyone) not in isolation, but in the context of all he has said on the matter. The Council did not make any new definitions of dogma, but it did speak dogma — the whole point of the Council was to take pre-existing doctrine and to restate it in a manner that was comprehensible to the world of the 20th century, rather than continuing to rely upon language from the 13th century.

    If we are called to be witnesses of Christ to the world — and we are — then we are called to be effective witnesses.

  35. St. Rafael says:


    I don’t use incorrect terms. The Athentic Magisterium is a term used by some Catholics and theologians. The Athentic Magisterium is another term for what some call non-infallible Ordinary Magisterium. Some Catholics and theologians still divide the Ordinary Magisterium into infallible and non-infallible Ordinary Magisterium. The term Authentic comes from the word authenticum, that is, only “authentic” or “authorized” teaching. This third category of Authentic Magisterium was developed by theologians as a way to seperate and distinguish its fallible teachings from the infallible Ordinary Magisterium and its infallible teachings.

    Just because some Catholics don’t use the term Authentic Magisterium does not make it incorrect. They just use the categories of infallible and non-infallible in the Ordinary Magisterium. That can be confusing when trying to make distictions, which is why the third category of Authentic came about.

  36. Imrahil says:

    Dear @St. Rafael,

    you usage of terms has probably not been forbidden, so feel free to call it correct, but still, it is misleading, and different from both Ludwig Ott and the Catholic Encyclopedia (to begin with)…

    Why misleading? Because it is the ordinary work of the Magisterium to ordinarily do what the Magisterium ordinarily does… which is not with infallibility. However, the Infallible Ordinary Magisterium is a very extraordinary case of the Ordinary, in your words, Authentic, Magisterium, and it consists in the fact that the (each time in itself fallible) Ordinary, in your words Authentic, Magisterium has spoken in such and such unanimity over such and such time.

    Thank you for your kind answer, though.

  37. St. Rafael says:

    That being said, there is no statement in Vatican II that contradicts either Extraordinary Magisterium or Infallible Ordinary Magisterium.

    The teaching in Dignitatis Humanae contradicts the Infallible Ordinary Magisterium. DH says says that man has a “civil right” to adhere to religious error. Contradicting what the Ordinary Magisterium always taught on religious liberty.

    The Syllabus of Errors by Pope Pius IX is infallible and part of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Joseph Ratzinger famously called Gadium et Spes a “counter-syllabus”. Implying that things in Gadium et Spes are counter and in opposition to the Syllabus of Errors. Teachings in Gadium et Spes, therefore being counter to and in opposition to the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

  38. jhayes says:

    St. Rafael, Pope Benedict has said that:

    The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf. Mt 22: 21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time.

    And explains regarding earlier decisions of the Church:

    It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within.

    On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.

    Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the way they are applied to new contexts can change. Thus, for example, if religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.

    It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the person must adopt only through the process of conviction.

  39. catholicmidwest says:

    With all due respect, this article doesn’t make any sense.

    He’s saying:
    IF: “The Second Vatican Council’s declarations on non-Christian religions and religious freedom do not contain “binding doctrinal content,” ”
    THEN: ““I don’t think the SSPX can say, ‘Well, we’ll set this or that document aside.’””

    But that doesn’t logically follow.

    IF: “The Second Vatican Council’s declarations on non-Christian religions and religious freedom do not contain “binding doctrinal content,” ”
    THEN: not much can be said about it one way or the other on that account.

    Maybe it was advisory. Maybe it was an experiment. Maybe something is the case and maybe it isn’t. More information is necessary to conclude anything.

  40. Imrahil says:

    Dear @St. Rafael,

    and here we come to an practical case of why I called your terminology misleading (do not take that personally please…). For Dignitatis humanae does not contradict previous Infallible Ordinary Magisterium, but previous Fallible Ordinary Magisterium. Did the Pope or a Council ever define dogmatically that there are circumstances where an error, though not contrary to common good except through wrongness alone, still must certainly be suppressed? No, he did not, which rules out Extraordinary Magisterium. Did the College of Bishops ever do so by virtual unison including the Pope? No, they did not, which rules out Infallible Ordinary Magisterium.

    Hence, while it does contradict “what the Church had” hitherto “always taught about religious freedom” (by calling the latter an error), it contradicts only what she had fallibly taught. By doing so, it abrogates what previous Fallible Ordinary Magisterium has said.

    The Syllabus is certainly not infallible (in itself), and it is debatable whether it is even Ordinary Magisterium (being a, well, syllabus of other doctrinal statements of Bl. Pius IX which, of course, each on its own have their magisterial rank). See the explanations of Bl. John Henry on the subject. I do not doubt, however, that it is a beautiful collection of Catholic doctrine far too little known in our times. If the Pope said there was a counter-syllabus, that presumably only means that the Church has uttered a statement different in tone; there was in Vatican II (most clearly, in fact, in Nostra Aetate in the description of the other religions) a tendency to describe what is best in the adversaries, in stead of where we differ. While that is something different from what was usual before, it does not mean that what was said before loses its value; I, at any rate, do not assume there are contraries for the only reason of the word “counter-syllabus”.

    On a side note, the Syllabus is not even contradicted by Dignitatis humanae (though some encyclicals of Gregory XVI, etc., are); it only rejects freedom of every cult whatsoever, which not even Dignitatis humanae allows (there are cults directly and with other reasons than wrongness alone run contrary to the common good, after all, such as human sacrifice).

    Thank you very much for your answer, though.

  41. Imrahil says:

    On the other hand, dear @jhayes, I wonder whether the Church can be described as “recognizing and making its own an essential principle of the modern State”, though who said that is one of the best present theologians and now the Vicar of Christ.

    And why I have some difficulties with that is this: It was only ever the Christians (though they not always) who held up real religious liberty, i. e. the thought that religion is so central in a human being and the human being so sacred that religion, even true religion, may not be enforced. And while I do think that this real religious liberty is the truth behind the relativist heresy (all heresies, empirically, contain some truth after all), it is quite hidden in it to be sure…

    The modern state, on the other hand, has outside the United States* only ever held up a faked religious liberty which derives from the principle that if conflict must be, let it be at least not about religion… It is probably not always explicit and conscious, but behind it is regularly the notion that religious truth be hard to attain. This notion originates from another notion, viz. that the truth between the confessions be hard to attain, which stemmed from the honest wish to overcome the split within Christianity in end-17th century ecumenism.

    *The United States is, first, not a modern state (its present Constitution preceded modernity by two years), and second and more importantly enjoys the interesting exception that precisely religious freedom in the really Christian sense is among its founding principles. After all, the original United States immigrants were on the flight from the established Church of England, but different among themselves in their confession. On the other hand, tell a European that the United States is a religiously neutral country and you will get a nasty laugh if the European is a secularist, and a friendly but quite odd look if the European is a non-secularist Christian.
    [If you forgive my impudence as a foreigner.]

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