It has become an inevitability that in our attempts to understand the current crisis in the Church, we must look back upon the events that precipitated it. There is perhaps no more debated topic in this regard than the question of whether the Second Vatican Council was unjustly marred by a poor implementation and interpretation — the ill-defined and often reckless so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” — or was in itself problematic and thus formative in bringing us to the present ecclesiastical moment. What is beyond dispute, however, is that the council did, in one way or another, play a pivotal role in the digression of contemporary Catholicism from the longstanding traditions — liturgical, sacramental, and doctrinal — of the perennial Church.
Today, we present an analysis by Paolo Pasqualucci, a Catholic philosopher and retired professor of philosophy of the law at the University of Perugia, Italy. Pasqualucci identifies, in this adaptation of the introduction to his book Unam Sanctam – A Study on Doctrinal Deviations in the Catholic Church of the 21st Century, 26 distinct points of rupture with the Tradition of the Church in the texts of the Vatican II documents themselves.
We present this to our readers not as the final word on Vatican II, but as an introduction to a necessary conversation that has at last become a consideration for many Catholics now forced to evaluate how and why we have arrived at the present moment — and what we may need to correct to find our way back. We would like to thank Professor Pasqualucci for permitting us to publish this essay here, to Dr. Maike Hickson for facilitating its publication, and to Giuseppe Pellegrino, for his painstaking work in translating the entire piece into English for our readers.
Paolo Pasqualucci: The “Points of Rupture” of the Second Vatican Council with the Tradition of the Church – synopsis
I publish here, courtesy of Maike Hickson, without footnotes and slightly modified, the first section of the “Introduction” of my book:
P. Pasqualucci, “UNAM SANCTAM. Studio sulle deviazioni dottrinali nella Chiesa Cattolica del XXI secolo”, Solfanelli, Chieti, 2013, pp. 437; pp. 10-18.
There are 26 “points of rupture” which I list, aware that more could be made. The first 12 draw from the work of Msgr. Brunero Gherardini: “Concilio Ecumenico Vaticano II. Un discorso da fare” (2009) and from “Quod et tradidi vobis – La tradizione vita e giovinezza della Chiesa”(2010). They are also found, partially anticipated, in the fundamental text of Romano Amerio, “IOTA UNUM. Studio delle variazioni della Chiesa cattolica nel secolo XX”, 1985, without forgetting, obviously, the work of Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre, “J’accuse le Concile!”(1976).
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1. It appears that the actual meaning attributed to the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes On the Church In the Modern World (GS) does not conform to the Tradition of the Church; it seems on the whole to be permeated with the spirit of the so-called “new Enlightenment.”
2. GS 22.2 affirms that by His Incarnation the Son of God “has united Himself in some fashion with every man,” an extraordinary affirmation, which seems to extend the Incarnation to each one of us, thereby divinizing man.
3. The attribution of the same faith in Christ to all Christians, including those “separated” from the Catholic Church, improperly equates the Catholic faith with the faith of schismatics and heretics. One notes, in particular, that the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio On Ecumenism even considers “separated Churches and Communities,” notwithstanding their “deficiencies,” to be true and proper “means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church” (UR 3.4).
4. GS 24.3 affirms that “man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself,” as if the purpose that guided the creation of man could have been something other than the celebration of the Glory of God and of God as the ultimate end of all things.
5. The notion of the Church contained in the tortuous article 1 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium stands out [as different from the Tradition], presented as “a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race,” without any mention of the supernatural end of the Church, that is the salvation of souls, the one thing that justifies her existence.
6. The definition of the Church given by LG 8.2 and later specified in LG 15, UR 3 and UR 15.1, affirms that the Church of Christ “subsists” in the Catholic Church and also that “many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward Catholic unity.” This is an entirely new definition, which seems to extend the concept of the Church of Christ to also include all the heretics and schismatics, thus exposing itself to the accusation of heresy in the formal sense, because it implies the negation of the dogma of the unicity of the Roman Apostolic Catholic Church (the one and only true Church of Christ) for salvation.
7. Paragraph 11.2 of the Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation Dei Verbum may be interpreted as if implying the denial of the dogma of the absolute inerrancy of the Sacred Texts, because it affirms that “the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.” The expression “without error” can in fact be interpreted as referring only to the “truth” revealed “for our salvation” [nostrae salutis causa]; that is, only regarding religious and moral precepts only.
8. The same Constitution Dei Verbum seems to eliminate the usual distinction between Tradition and Scripture (DV 9-10).
9. The concept of Tradition is never expressly defined; its relationship with Scripture is not made clear (DV 9), nor its relationship with the Tradition of the “Eastern Churches” (Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum 1). In addition, there appears a concept of a “live” or “living tradition” (DV 8) which is nebulous and ambiguous, since, as Msgr. Gherardini emphasizes, “it lends itself to introducing every sort of novelty into the Church, even the most contradictory, as expressions of her life.”
10. The new definition of episcopal collegiality in LG 22 does not seem reconcilable with the Tradition of the Church and undermines the right understanding of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. In fact it establishes something unheard of – two subjects of the supreme power of jurisdiction over the entire Church (the Pope by himself and also the College of Bishops with the Pope) and two differing exercises of the same jurisdiction (of the Pope by himself and of the College by itself with the authorization of the Pope): “The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles … is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff” (LG 22.2).
11. In the Decree On Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae (DH), a concept of “religious liberty” is affirmed which does not seem to distinguish itself from the secular concept of the same, which is the fruit of the idea of tolerance, the origins of which are in Deism and the Enlightenment. Such a concept appears not to conform to the doctrine of the Church and is a harbinger of indifferentism and agnosticism.
12. [On] the question of the nota theologica of the documents of Vatican II, Msgr. Gherardini (and certainly he is not the only one) does not consider it to be a dogmatic council, because it neither defined dogmas nor condemned errors, not even in the two constitutions specifically named “dogmatic”, and it expressly declared that it was not dogmatic but, on the contrary, pastoral (see the Notifications in the Appendix to LG: “Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding.”) But in fact there are not dogmatic definitions in any conciliar document on “matters of faith and morals.” However the apologists of the Council claim it exudes a new type of “infallibility”, somehow implicit in the same pastoral nature of the documents. But this is impossible because the dogmatic character of a pronouncement of the extraordinary Magisterium must result from certain, comprehensible and traditional signs and cannot be “implicit”.
13. As far as the Liturgy is concerned, notable perplexity is raised by the way in which the Holy Mass is defined in the constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium On the Sacred Liturgy (SC 47, 48, 106), where it seems to favor the notion of “a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten” and a “memorial” in place of a propitiatory sacrifice (which obtains mercy [propitiatio] before God for our sins). Article 106 describes “the paschal mystery” (a new, obscure, and unusual name for the Holy Mass) in this way: it is the day of the week when “Christ’s faithful are bound to come together into one place so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus, and may thank God who has begotten them again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a living hope (1 Pet 1:3)” (SC 106). This manner of speaking seems to present the Holy mass essentially as a memorial and as a “sacrifice of praise” for the Resurrection, in the manner of the Protestants. Furthermore, the definition of the Holy Mass in SC makes no mention of the dogma of transubstantiation or of the nature of the Holy Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice. Does this not fall into the specific error solemnly condemned by Pius VI in 1794, when he exposed the heresies of the Jansenists, declaring that their definition of the Holy Mass, precisely because of its silence on transubstantiation, was “pernicious, unfaithful to the exposition of Catholic truth on the dogma of transubstantiation, and favorable to the heretics”(DS 1529/2629)?
14. The unheard of novelty of the introduction into the Liturgy of the principle of creativity, again in SC, paragraphs 37-40, theoretically under the control of the Holy See, often purely “theoretical”. This principle has always been opposed down the centuries by the entire Magisterium, without exceptions, as a disastrous thing to be avoided in the most absolute way, and many consider this principle to be the real cause of the current liturgical chaos.
15. The principle of creativity is corroborated by the wide and entirely new competence given to the Bishops’ Conferences in liturgical matters, including the faculty of experimenting new forms of worship (SC 22 § 2, 39, 40); this is contrary to the constant teaching of the Magisterium, which has always reserved all competence in liturgical matters to the Supreme Pontiff, as the maximum guarantee against the introduction of liturgical innovations.
16. In harmony with the principle of creativity, Sacrosanctum Concilium has introduced the principle of adaptation of the rite to profane culture, that is, to the character and traditions of various peoples, to their language, music, arts, precisely by means of creativity and liturgical experimentation (SC 37, 38, 39, 40, 90, 119) as well as through the simplification of the rite itself, which is desired to be shorter and clearer (SC 21, 34, 65-70, 77, 79, 90). Also here, against the constant teaching of the Magisterium, according to which the culture of the various peoples ought to adapt itself to the exigencies of the Catholic rite and without anything ever being conceded to experimentation or at any rate to vain and haughty way of thinking of modern man. And in fact, the rite of the Holy Mass is today fragmented into different rites according to the various continents if not each nation, with an infinite number of local variations, at the discretion of the celebrant; variations (and degenerations) which do not exclude the intrusion of pagan elements into the rite, while the occasional corrective interventions by the authorities of the Holy See generally fall on deaf ears.
17. The fragmentation and barbarization of Catholic worship are also the result of the abandonment of Latin, the ancient and universal language which always been the unifying instrument of the rite. This epochal mutation was authorized by Paul VI. Now, Sacrosanctum Concilium decrees: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved (servetur) in the Latin rites” (SC, 36 § 1). But it also consents that “the limits of [the mother tongue’s] employment may be extended” according to the norms and cases determined by the Council itself (SC 36 § 2). The norms of a general character established by the Council give to the Bishops’ Conferences a “full competence” regarding the introduction of the vernacular into worship (SC 22 § 2, 40, 54). And there are numerous cases in which the Council conceded the possibility of the partial or total use of the mother tongue: SC 63, in the administration of the Sacraments, sacramentals, and particular rituals; SC 65, in the baptismal rites in mission countries; SC 76, in the consecration of priests; SC 77-78, in the rite of Matrimony; SC 101, in the prayers of the Divine Office; SC 113, in the solemn liturgy of the Holy Mass. The use of Latin was still the norm, but did they not open numerous passages to the vulgar?
18. The debasement of the priesthood, on which Msgr. Gherardini has written many times, understood by the Council as a “function of the People of God”; the demotion of the priest from “priest of God” to “priest of the People of God”, as if the legitimation of the priesthood depended on the People of God, i.e., on the faithful. Such a demotion is somehow based on a groundless interpretation of the Scripture; i.e., that Our Lord, at the beginning, “has established ministers among his faithful”.
(Conciliar Decree On the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, PO 2.2). On the contrary, the Gospels attest that Our Lord did not begin to build his Church choosing men from “among his faithful” in general: He built it working with those He had chosen and prepared as priests; that is, with the Apostles.
19. The unprecedented equalization between the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood and the “common priesthood of the faithful” (LG 10.2), which are conceived of as “interrelated” [ad invicem ordinantur] and thus placed on the same level; the unacceptable devaluation of ecclesiastical celibacy, about which it is affirmed that “it is indeed not demanded of by the very nature of the priesthood,” justifying this assertion with an altogether unique interpretation of the thought of Saint Paul (PO 16.1); the infiltration of ideas contrary to the Tradition of the Church, namely, that among the “functions” of the priesthood, the first place ought to be given to preaching (“proclaiming the Gospel of God to all” PO 4.1), even though the Council of Trent has affirmed that what characterizes the priesthood in the first place is “the power to consecrate, offer and dispense the Body and Blood of Christ” and secondly “the power to forgive or not forgive sins.”
20. The debasement of the priestly function is understood in light of the new notion of the Church as the “people of God”, which in turn is related to the new enlarged (and spurious) notion of the Church (see paragraph 6 above). “People of God” instead of “Mystical Body of Christ” (LG 8-13), a definition that on one side exchanges the part for the whole; that is, it exchanges the “people of God” mentioned in 1 Peter 2:10 for the whole Church, whereas this verse – according to the traditional and received interpretation – concerns a simple attribution of praise given by St. Peter to the faithful who converted from Paganism (“At one time you were no people and now you are the people of God”). Furthermore, it leads to a “democratic” and “communitarian” vision of the Church itself, a concept entirely extraneous to the Catholic Tradition and closer instead to the Protestant way of thinking. In fact, this concept includes in the notion of “people”, and thus in an unusual “communitarian” perspective, also the Hierarchy, whose members are also considered “members” of the “people of God” (LG 13) and only by that title do they seem to participate, together with the “people”, in the Mystical Body of Christ. This new and unique notion of the “people of God” has been superimposed over the orthodox understanding of the “Mystical Body”, in which now the faithful would participate through the collective entity represented by the “People of God.”
21. Three “points of rupture” which are linked together: the opening to feminism (GS 29, 52, 60) and to public sex education (Declaration On Christian Education Gravissimum educationis, GE 1), justly condemned by the preceding popes (Pius XI and Pius XII) because it is immoral and corrupting, to be left to the prudent and private appraisal of parents and teachers; the elevation of the “communion of life and love” to a primary end of marriage, to the point that the end of the procreation and education of children appears only as “the ultimate crown” [fastigium] of this “communion” and not the exclusive end for which it exists (GS 48).
22. The multiple, unusual and misleading statements attributed to non-Christian religions in the Document Nostra Aetate. It even declares that these “nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men” (NA 2.3) and, incredibly, exhorts Catholics to “recognize, preserve, and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men (NA 2.3)! This Declaration (but also LG 16: “along with us they adore the one and merciful God [nobiscum Deum adorant unicum et misericordem]”) seems even to recognize as authentic the revelation proclaimed by Mohammed and holds acceptable the apocryphal “christology” and “mariology” of the Koran (NA 3.1). Towards the Jews, it seems to believe that Christ has already reconciled Christians and Jews, simply ignoring the fact that Judaism has not converted and remains hostile to Christ, maintaining its false temporal messianic hope. This supposed conciliation renders uncertain the theology of the substitution, which involves, as we know, the radical and obvious substitution of Christianity for Judaism, as the only true revealed religion (NA 4).
23. Appreciating Hinduism, the Declaration says that its followers “contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust” (NA 2.2). This portrayal is totally misleading because it leads the Catholic to hold as valid the mythology and philosophy of Hinduism, as if it would effectively “contemplate the divine mystery” and as if Hindu asceticism and mysticism could attain something similar to Christian asceticism. We know, however, that the mixture of mythology and speculation which characterizes the spirituality of India since the time of the Vedas (16th to 10th century B.C.) betrays itself in a conception of the divinity and of the world which is monist and pantheist. In fact, conceiving of God as an impersonal and cosmic force, it ignores the concept of creation ex nihilo and, as a result, does not distinguish between sensible reality and supernatural reality, material reality and spiritual reality, between the Whole and particular things. As a result, every individually existing thing dissolves into the indistinct cosmic One, from which everything emanates and to which everything eternally returns, while all that exists individually would be in itself purely an appearance. This thinking, which according to the Council is “profound”, inevitably lacks the notion of the individual soul (which by contrast was already known to the ancient Greeks) and what we call free will.
The picture is completed with the doctrine of reincarnation, a concept entirely unacceptable, explicitly condemned in the schema of the Dogmatic Constitution De deposito fidei pure custodiendo, drafted in the preparatory phase of the Council and shipwrecked by the Novatores or progressive cardinals and bishops (with the acquiescence of Pope John XXIII) at the beginning of the Council, along with the rest of the imposing and extremely accurate preparatory work, which lasted three years. Indeed the so-called Hindu “ascesis” appears to be a form of epicureanism, the refined and egocentric search for a superior spiritual indifference towards every desire, even a good one, and towards all responsibility; an indifference which is justified by maintaining that all suffering makes up for the faults of a preceding life, as is taught by the false belief in reincarnation.
24. On Buddhism, a partially purified autonomous variant of Hinduism, the Declaration states that “in its various forms [it] realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination” (NA 2.2). This is the image of a Buddhism as misrepresented by the famously unorthodox Henri De Lubac, S.J.; i.e., reconsidered and embellished so as to make it presentable to unsuspecting Catholics. In fact, they are not informed that, as a counterpoint to the “radical insufficiency of this changeable world”, Buddhists place a true and real “metaphysic of nothingness”, so to say, according to which the world and our own “Self” are only apparent beings (and not simply contingent and transient but at the same time truly real ones, as for us Christians). […] For the Buddhist, everything “is becoming and un-becoming” at the same time, life is a continuous flux pervaded by universal sorrow, which is to be overcome by persuading oneself that everything is vain, that all one needs to do is to persuade himself to get rid of every desire through an intellectual initiation, a gnosis. In Tantric Buddhism such a gnosis is pushed beyond the limits of ethics and decency, by professing the supposedly liberating use of the so-called “sexual magic”. Buddhistic initiation aims at attaining complete indifference to everything, Nirvana (“disappearance” or “extinction”); an ultimate condition of absolute privation, in which all there is is emptiness itself, the peace of absolute void, a non-being in which our “Self” is totally extinguished, dissolved in the cosmic Whole. This is the “state of perfect liberation” or “supreme illumination” which Vatican II dared to call to the respectful attention of Catholics.
25. The grave problem represented by a notion of truth influenced by the subjectivism of modern thought, therefore incompatible with the idea itself of a revealed truth.
a. In Dei Verbum, in the conclusion of the discourse on the “comprehension” of the truths of the faith as an “understanding which grows,” it states: “For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of the divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her” (DV 8.2). Here it is implied that the Church still does not possess, after twenty centuries, “the fullness of divine truth,” since it is still “constantly moving it forward”! The idea of truth as a “concordance of the object [investigated by us] with the intellect [investigating it] (Aristotle-St. Thomas Aquinas) is substituted by the typically modern idea of truth as a subjective and endless quest for the truth. But such an idea, apart from every other consideration, cannot be applied to the notion of a truth revealed by God, which our intellect recognizes with the indispensable help of Grace, and which constitutes precisely the immutable Deposit of Faith. Furthermore, such an idea is not coherent with the truth of faith, according to which Revelation was completed with the death of the last Apostle.
b. This idea of “truth as a quest for truth”, that in fact replaces the truth one is questioning about, is the basis of the principle of “dialogue.” It holds that truth “in religious matters” ought now to be the result of an inquiry which “is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered [alii aliis exponent veritatem quam invenerunt], or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth” relating to “the divine law – eternal, objective and universal – whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love” (DH 3.1-2).
The truth “in religious matters” now consists, then, in whatever is “discovered,” found by the conscience of the individual in a quest “with others,” thanks to perpetual “dialoguing”. By “others [alii]” is meant not simply other Catholics but others in general, all other men, whatever creed they may hold. Significantly, this search has as its object the divine and eternal law, placed by God in the hearts of men, that is, the lex aeterna of natural morality, after the manner of the deists (by involving everyone, in fact, it cannot have as its object Revealed Truth, completely denied by non-Christians and largely deformed by heretics).
This new doctrine openly contradicts the perennial teaching, according to which, for the Catholic, truth “in religious matters” and in morality is a truth revealed by God and retained by the Magisterium in the Deposit of the Faith. Therefore, this truth demands the assent of our intellect and of our will, made possible with the decisive help of Grace. This truth demands to be known and made one’s own by the believer, not to be “found” by him by his own efforts or, furthermore, through an investigatio in common with heretics, schismatics, non-Christians, miscreants; that is, with all those who reject our religious truths and our fundamental moral principles! Here we are outside the bounds, not only of the faith but also of the most elementary logic!
c. The non-Catholic principle, that the truth ought to be the result of a “quest” in common with other men, pursued “in fidelity to the conscience” of each individual involved, also when the solution of “numerous moral principles” is involved, is reaffirmed in GS 16.2, one of the key articles for understanding the neo-Modernist mens of the Council.
26. To conclude this brief Synopsis, I want to recall the three points not conforming to the Tradition of the Church in the Inaugural Allocution of John XXIII on October 11, 1962, which surely contributed to directing the Council in the anomalous direction which it then took. And these are:
1) A mutilated and erroneous conception of the Magisterium: “Now however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy more than that of severity. This demands that she comes to encounter the needs of today showing the validity of her teaching rather than renewing condemnations.” Mutilated, because it leads to believe that the Magisterium ought not to condemn errors or use its authority, which comes to it from God to proclaim and impose in an indefectible manner the distinction between truth and error; erroneous, because the condemnation of error, as we all know, is in itself a work of mercy, whether in confronting the erring so that he may take an account of himself, reconsider his ways and save his soul, or in defending the faithful from the insidious subtleties of Error thanks to the condemnation of all the errors by the Authority which has iure divino the competence to issue it.
2) A grave commixture of Catholic doctrine and modern thought, as it affirms (in the vernacular version, more audacious than the Latin one, and publicly used by John XXIII himself) that authentic doctrine ought to be “studied and espoused through the forms of investigation and the literary formulation of modern thought,” since “on the one hand there is the substance of the ancient doctrine of the depositum fidei, and on the other hand there is the formulation of its outer layer [rivestimento or coating]: and it is of this outer layer that one must – with patience if necessary – take great note, measuring everything in the forms and proportions of a magisterium with a prevailing pastoral character” (a concept re-proposed in GS 62 and in UR 6). This is a position always rejected by the popes because of the obvious and unavoidable contradiction which exists between modern thought, deaf to the supernatural and intensely taken up with the principle of immanence, and “the ancient doctrine,” in which it is not possible to separate the “substance” and the “outer layer.”
3) The enunciation of the unity of the human race as the true goal of the Church, with such unity even considered as a “necessary foundation” so that the “earthly city” may become ever more like the “celestial city”: a notion of a millieniaristic tint, foreign to the doctrine of the Church. We can see the attribution of this improper purpose to the Church in LG 1 (see above, n. 5).
Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino