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The Vatican II Points of Rupture Remain

Editor’s note: The following is the response of Prof. Paolo Pasqualucci to some criticism of his previous article, “‘Points of Rupture’ of the Second Vatican Council,” available here.

The critical remarks:

  1. “Articles such as this one, written at a time of great confusion, only inflict greater uncertainty and anxiety upon the faithful.”
  1. The author so often uses expressions like “it seems,” “it appears to say,” “could be interpreted as” that his reasoning appears “flimsy.”
  1. The supposed “rupture” with the traditional notion of priesthood is not proven. The author muddles up the notions of priestly “task” and priestly “function.”
  1. The author has not understood the notion of “divinization” of man implied by Gaudium et Spes 22.2: “For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man [Ipse enim, Filius Dei, incarnatione sua cum omni homine quodammodo Se univit].” The implied “divinization” of man is theologically correct (as allegedly demonstrated by a long list of scriptural and patristical quotations).

My replies:

  1. We are all affected, I think, by a despondent feeling of “uncertainty and anxiety” about the future of our civilization and our Catholic religion. What most afflicts us is the clear and widespread perception that the present terrible crisis of the Church is caused eminently by the Catholic hierarchy itself. The tree is rotting from inside. Can we ignore this undeniable fact, thus avoiding any engagement in the “good battle” for the restoration of the true Doctrine? We Catholics have all been confirmed as “milites Christi,” soldiers of Christ, and have first of all the duty to fight for Our Lord’s honor and glory, everyone according to his capacities, as shown in the Parable of the Talents (Lk 19). The spiritual and practical fight for the Dogma of the Faith, against all the anti-Christian powers of this world, is in essence supernatural, its ultimate and everlasting prize life eternal.

Let’s be brave, then, and never lose faith in the help of the Holy Ghost, “For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen, are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal”(2 Cor. 4:17-18).

  1. The frequent use of “it seems,” “it appears to say,” etc. makes my reasoning inconsistent or “flimsy”?

I think the layman has the authority (CIC c. 212 §3) to enucleate and expose ambiguous (or erroneous) statements issued by a legitimate Church authority. As far as Catholic doctrine is concerned, no ambiguity is admissible, no possibility of a double entendre that might point directly or indirectly to erroneous or heretical doctrines. At the same time, an author ought to allow the public to establish by itself whether the exposed ambiguity conceals or not an error in fide – i.e., whether the ambiguous statements appear in accordance with the traditional teaching of the Church or not.

The due analysis of the ambiguities that appear in the often tortuous language of Vatican II documents is also spiritually offered to the judgment of the authority of the Church, which is supposed to have the ultimate word in these vital matters – i.e., to establish one day officially and forever if the exposed ambiguities are or are not in accordance with the perennial doctrine of the Church.

As shown by the history of the Church, ambiguities usually appear when new doctrines (nova) are introduced. They are generally proposed as if they were always in accordance with the traditional doctrine, which they are now supposed to explain better, with new arguments (nove). But the new doctrines that are introduced are generally dangerous for the faith. That’s why they are often camouflaged by tortuous and ambiguous language.

Vatican II has admitted of introducing new doctrines, though (of course) always in harmony (congruentia) with the old ones:

This Vatican Council takes careful note of these desires [of dignity and freedom] in the minds of men. It proposes to declare them to be greatly in accord with truth and justice. To this end, it searches into the sacred tradition and doctrine of the Church – the treasury out of which the Church continually brings forth new things [nova] that are in harmony with the things that are old [sacram Ecclesiae traditionem doctrinamque scrutatur, ex quibus nova semper cum veteribus congruentia profert]. –Decl. Dignitatis humanae on religious liberty, 1.1)

The notion of tradition and doctrine that appears here does not seem correct to me: it is not the task of the Church “to bring forth new things” from the Deposit of the Faith (whether “continually” or not), albeit (in theory) “always in harmony with the old ones.” Which “new things”? Those “desired in the minds of men” professing the profane values of our secularized age?

Such a statement shows in any case an evolutive notion of tradition, incompatible with the notions of Deposit of the Faith and of revealed truth. These notions imply that the Church can explain the “old things” better, with new arguments (nove), as for instance the dogmatic Council of Trent did, but has absolutely no power of introducing “new doctrines,” nova.

  1. Did I say that according to the Council, preaching was the “first task” of priesthood, to be put in “the first place among priestly functions,” when, as a mere “task”, it should not be included among the “functions” of the priesthood? And did I overlook the fact that the first place among these “functions” is attributed by the decree Presbyterorum Ordinis to the celebration of the Holy Mass?

Surely not. I do not understand where this word “task” comes from, since the English translation of my Synopsis reports:

[A]mong the “functions” of the priesthood the first place ought to be given to preaching (“proclaiming the Gospel of God to all” PO 4.1). Indeed, if we check the text of the Decree, we see that, in listing the “Priests’ functions” (presbyterorum munera) the Council writes: “…priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaming the Gospel of God to all” [primum habent officium Evangelium Dei omnibus evangelizandi]. Preaching, therefore, is not conceived of as a secondary task at all; it is emphasized as the “primary duty” of priests. The first duty, among the duties (munera) that fill their priestly “function”. In its analysis of the “priests’ functions”, the Decree begins significantly with the “praedicatio sacerdotalis”.

There is no ambiguity here. The change of perspective is quite obvious.

  1. Why should the (improper) divinization of man implied by GS 22.2 be considered a legitimate notion?

Because, argues my critic, “it is perfectly orthodox to say that we baptized are by grace what Christ is by nature.”

My reply:

4.1 By grace we can become “sons of God by adoption,” as explained by St. Paul (Rm 8:14). This means that, in this world, we can become similar to Him (our Master) but never the same in nature. The adoption is conceded “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him”(Rm 8:17) – that is, only if we are capable of sanctifying ourselves, regenerating ourselves with the help of God. The divine adoption is conditioned by the cooperation of our free will or, in other words, by our effective exercise of the Christian virtues. It is a condition we can achieve only fighting against ourselves.

4.2 We become “children of God,”, “Sons of God,” “Gods or likened to God,” “fellow-heirs with Christ” not because we have been divinized for the simple fact of being Christian, but because of our success in becoming an individual “born anew of water and the Spirit,” an individual who proves to be an effective disciple of Christ (John 3:3ff).

4.3 My critic lists five quotations from the Scripture, one from the New Catechism, and nine from the fathers of the Church to support his argument.

As some readers have pointed out, the status of “children of God” applies also to the elect in the Kingdom of God; in this case, it has nothing to do with what we are debating here. Furthermore, such a status, when related to man in this world, is never connected by the sources listed above to the Incarnation of Our Lord. This is a novelty introduced by Vatican II. To say the truth, it isn’t even a novelty: this error was refuted by St. John of Damascus (deceased A.D. 749) and by St Thomas Aquinas (see: Summa Theologiae, III, q. IV, a. 5). So “divinization” by Adoption and not by a union begotten by the Incarnation.

4.4 The idea that we have “been made gods” echoes the notion of theosis, typical of the Greek patristics, if I am not mistaken. But generally, isn’t it translated this way: “becoming likened to God” and not at all “like God”? “Likened to God” by the action of the Holy Spirit – that makes God act in the faithful receiving it. This seems to be the supernatural action revealed by Jesus in John 14:23: “if a man loves Me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.” Here we have a beautiful illustration of the ineffable and trinitarian action of the divine grace in us. Such an action has obviously nothing to do with a supposed “union” of Christ with us for the simple fact of His Incarnation.

4.5 GS 22.2, instead, seemingly wants to say that, by the mere fact

of Incarnation, the Son of God “has made his home” with every human being (!) – not exclusively with the faithful who loves Christ, but with every man for the simple fact that he is a man. Man is not supposed to do anything to achieve the extraordinary benefit of the “union” with the Son of God. The “union” with Christ becomes then an ontological quality of man, and we must assume that man is “divinized.” (Ontological is pertaining to the being [on, ontos] in Greek) – i.e., to the nature of man as such, without any further specification.

This new doctrine aims at establishing a supernatural foundation to the notion of human dignity, proposed in the same article. That’s why the sentence begins with “for” – enim in Latin. Article GS 22 tells us that Christ came in this world to “fully reveal man to man himself and to make his supreme calling clear”(a notion taken from the troubled theology of Henri de Lubac, S.J.). The Savior came not to make us believe in Him, repent, and be saved from eternal damnation (Mk 2:17); He came to reveal to man “his supreme calling.” Perhaps this consists of a call to “eternal life”? No. It consists, we are told, of the awareness of the divine dignity of our nature: “[s]ince human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man”(GS 22.2, my emphasis). Therefore: every man as such possesses a divine dignity for the simple reason that, in His Incarnation, the Son of God “has united himself with every man”!

4.6 How could this extraordinary “union” take place? Is this supposed to be a clear notion? Further confusion is introduced by the expression “in some fashion” (quodammodo). What is this supposed to mean?

4.7 There is more to say on this extraordinary article 22 of GS and its interpretations. I conclude my short reply outlining that this ontological “union” practically destroys the dogma of original sin, at any rate vanished (as well as other dogmas) from the teaching of the Catholic hierarchy after Vatican II.

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