Fifty Years Later–Vatican II’s Unfinished Business

Today, 50 years after the opening of Vatican II, the misinterpretation of one of its most salient documents, Lumen Gentium, continues to drive a number of Catholics in the United States into one of two camps, the “right” or the “left.”

 

Fifty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the Church in the United States is in the throes of a struggle. Loyal Catholics are showing renewed vigor and vitality, and are helping the Church to move forward in unity. At the same time, the Church is also being exhausted and drained from within by a vocal movement of other Catholics who continue to dissent from Church teachings, particularly the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

Dissent is entrenched in the Church in the U.S.
For most American Catholics over 50, it is an accepted fact that dissent from the magisterium of the Church is widespread, tolerated, and, in some quarters, even welcomed. The breaking point, of course, was Paul VI’s 1968 prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which condemned contraception as “intrinsically disordered.”  The encyclical became one of the most controversial documents of the century, if not many centuries. The widespread dissent by Catholics was led with enthusiasm by huge numbers of Catholic theologians, professors and intellectuals. The onslaught of bright, articulate academics turning on the Pope encouraged many Catholics in the pews to do the same.

Why would so many educated Catholics—who should have been ready and able to defend the teaching authority of the Church—turn against the Pope with such force? How could they justify it?

The most popular argument was that permission to dissent had been given by none other than the Second Vatican Council. The dissenters claimed that “the spirit of Vatican II,” along with theological perspectives of the Council, supported their argument that individual Catholics have a right to dissent from “non-infallible” Church teachings—even authoritative encyclicals like Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae”—if they felt they had a good enough reason.

Unfortunately, this false notion was unwittingly given a boost by none other than the bishops of the United States. On November 15, 1968, a few months after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, the bishops issued their pastoral letter, “Human Life in Our Day,” to help Catholics interpret the Pope’s encyclical.  The bishops said in no. 51 of that document that in some cases, a Catholic could dissent from “non-infallible authentic doctrine” of the magisterium. They explained: “The expression of theological dissent from the magisterium is in order only if the reasons are serious and well-founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church, and is such as not to give scandal.”

So, the bishops did approve of limited dissent from papal teaching in faith and morals.

This position was given even more credence later by the powerful and widely quoted Cardinal Bernardin when he was Archbishop of Chicago. Shortly before his death in 1996, Cardinal Bernardin initiated his Catholic Common Ground Project, to bring factions of the church together in “dialogue.” According to a Nov. 14, 1996, article in Origins (pp. 353-356), the axis of Cardinal Bernardin’s legacy was the belief that “limited and occasional dissent” from the magisterium of the Church was “legitimate.”

But what did Vatican II really teach?
So, the intellectual community and even the high-ranking Church leaders were reinforcing the idea that dissent from Church teachings was to be expected, even welcomed—and that permission to do so came straight from Vatican II.

However, had they really read the documents of Vatican II?

The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), no. 25, presents a far different answer from the dissenters. This carefully reasoned Vatican II document states that, even though the bishops of the Catholic Church are not individually infallible, they do teach infallibly the Church’s doctrines of faith and morals “when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.”

What could be clearer? Lumen Gentium, no. 25, explicitly states that one such case of the bishops teaching infallibly is when they teach a matter of faith and morals in “an ecumenical council.”  Vatican II was “an ecumenical Council.” The Council also taught in no. 25 of Lumen Gentium that these definitions of the bishops on matters of faith and morals must be held with a “religious assent.”  Furthermore: “This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra …”

The Council goes on to explain this required assent to the Pope’s non-ex cathedra teaching: “…that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.” But how does one know the Pope’s “manifest mind and will?” Again, the Council clarifies it by saying that: “… His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.”

Clearly according to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council there is no room for dissent from even the non-ex-cathedra or “non-infallible” decisions of the Pope on matters of faith and morals—not even “limited and occasional” dissent. This means that there is no room for dissent from the Pope’s teaching on contraception in Humanae Vitae. A Catholic, therefore, who would maintain that one could dissent from a non-ex cathedra or non-infallible decision of a pope, would be implicitly dissenting from Lumen Gentium no. 25 and the Second Vatican Council itself.

The occasion for the misunderstanding
Although Lumen Gentium, no. 25, speaks clearly, it should not come as a surprise that it was misinterpreted. Part of the confusion arose from an interpretation of Paul VI’s statement about the authority of the decisions of the Council.  As found in vol. 11 of The Pope Speaks, Paul VI stated in “After the Council: New Tasks,”

In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statement of dogmas that would be endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium. This ordinary magisterium, which is so obviously official, has to be accepted with docility and sincerity by all the faithful, in accordance with the mind of the Council on the nature and aims of the individual documents.

For the dissenters, the Pope’s careful parsing of the Council’s mission—to avoid “any extraordinary statement of dogmas that would be endowed with the note of infallibility”—was apparently just enough of a loophole to keep the fires of their argument alive.

However, note that the Council titled Lumen Gentium, as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.  That indicates that the “nature” of Lumen Gentium is “dogmatic” per se, and its “aim” is to point out to Catholics those dogmas of divine faith which have always been part of the belief of the Church!

So, while there are no “extraordinary” dogmas in Vatican II, there are ordinary dogmas which are drawn from Scripture, Tradition, or previous teachings of the magisterium. Thus, even though the Pope and the Council did not exercise their infallible authority to teach Lumen Gentium, the contents (teachings) in Lumen Gentium are, by their very sources, clearly dogmatic. Thus, each Catholic must accept no. 25 of Lumen Gentium as a matter of faith, even though the form of the document itself is not infallible.

Of course, the fact remains that none of the documents of Vatican II are taught ex cathedra. Therefore, none of the teachings of Vatican II are formally pronounced as dogmas by the Second Vatican Council itself. So, very strictly speaking, a person can dissent from Vatican II itself without being a formal heretic. However, to dissent from an ecumenical council is no small matter. To put it informally, one may avoid being a heretic, but still may be a “bad” Catholic.

Ordinary counciliar self-verification is not enough
How did this confusion take root? It can best be explained as rising from the concept of conciliar self-verification. In other words, the Second Vatican Council teaches that the fathers at an “ecumenical council” are teachers of faith and morals, and their “definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.” The problem is, the ecumenical council making this statement is itself an ecumenical council—and, therefore, is making statements about itself and not making it with the highest authority, i.e., ex cathedra.

In other words, one might say this is the conciliar version of chasing one’s own theological tail. The fallout has been that, for several generations of Catholics, from academics and Church leaders to the laity in the pews, the lasting impression is, “Vatican II said it was okay to disagree with the Pope.”

Thus began the era of “taking sides.” It was as if the Catholic faith became no more than a grand game—Pope and established Church teachings versus the dissenters—and individual Catholics could simply pick which team to root for. Some called themselves liberals (the “left”) while others called themselves conservatives (the “right.”)  Each group dissented from Vatican II, but for different reasons.

Many liberal nuns in the U.S., for example, continue to sympathize with anti-life groups that claim they are helping the poor by promoting the poor’s right to funds for abortion and contraception. They claim to be supporting social justice by defending, or, at least, sympathizing with, the gay agenda. They are especially vocal in demanding that the Church ordain women to the priesthood—even after John Paul II informed them that the Church teaching on an all male priesthood is infallible and, therefore, cannot be changed.

On the other hand, the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, continues to err on the side of utter conservative rigidity. They reject the Second Vatican Council as a movement of the Holy Spirit, and cling to the minutiae of 500-year-old rituals as necessary, for their own sake.  The change of the liturgy from Latin to English, or the vernacular of each particular country, is their most well-known objection.

Therefore, today, 50 years after the opening of Vatican II, the misinterpretation of one of its most salient documents, Lumen Gentium, continues to drive a number of Catholics in the United States into one of two camps, the “right” or the “left.”

However, the age of confusion may be coming to an end. According to a July, 2012, article in Catholic World Report, the widespread errors that had grown up about papal authority was addressed head-on by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the newly-appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“We also have the problem of groups—of the right and the left, as is usually said—which take up much of our time and our attention,” Archbishop Müller was quoted as saying. “Here, the danger easily arises of losing sight of our main task, which is to proclaim the Gospel and to explain concretely the doctrine of the Church.”

The archbishop was clear: dissenters do not belong solely to one camp or the other, despite the fact that each one would claim it to be so. Rather, dissenting Catholics on both the “right” and on the “left” are soaking up the energy of the Church by demanding attention to grievances and stifling the apostolate.

A clear path ahead
One way out of this dilemma is clear and simple. Obviously, the Second Vatican Council’s self-verification of Lumen Gentium, no. 25, was not sufficient to bring about the hoped for unity in faith and morals in the Church.

Therefore, Lumen Gentium, no. 25, should be verified outside of the Second Vatican Council. This could come either by the Pope, using his infallible authority to define Lumen Gentium, no. 25, as ex cathedra, or by another ecumenical council doing so. Given the deep, lasting errors which inadvertently took root after Vatican II—clearly, a great Council which has been unfairly besmirched by controversy—is it too much to think that the solution may be another, clarifying Council, perhaps Vatican III?

Some may argue that requiring all Catholics, even theologians, to make an absolute assent to Lumen Gentium, no.25, to remain in the Church would be severe. It would be a retreat from the spirit of John XXIII’s promise, which he made when he opened Vatican II in 1962, that the worldwide Council would use “the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.”  In other words, the Church would guide her flock without condemnations”—known in earlier centuries as the much dreaded “anathema sit” (“let him be excommunicated”).

However, if this confusion is faced, either through a ringing papal document, or the dramatic convening of a new Council, the outcome will absolutely follow Pope John XXIII’s call for “mercy rather than severity.”

Consider that it is Mercy itself for the Church to clearly proclaim her true nature and teaching authority. If she puts an end to the confusion of several generations, she can turn her entire strength and authority to attract people to the Catholic faith. And by doing so, how can we not say that she will be extending the Mercy of Christ himself?

As Christ said, “The Truth will set you free”—and what greater act of mercy is there, than to free those enslaved by error? Finally, dissenters on both the “right” and the “left” will have the Truth clearly presented to them, so that they can freely decide whether or not they are going to join the Church’s mission into the future.

The beauty of this approach is that no one needs to be explicitly condemned. The proclamation would be equivalent to the definition of “papal infallibility” or the “Immaculate Conception” or the “Assumption.” It would be a dogma defining the Church.  A person who could not assent to Lumen Gentium, no. 25, would finally know—clearly and without equivocation—that they are no longer Catholic. The decision would be theirs.

Will this happen? We have reason to hope. Perhaps, the first inklings of a definitive move by the Church came in the words of Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Asked by an interviewer, “What do you think of the discussions with the Lefebvrists, and with the religious sisters of the United States?” The archbishop replied: “There are no negotiations on the Word of God, and one cannot “believe and not believe” at the same time. One cannot pronounce the three religious vows, and then not take them seriously. I cannot make reference to the tradition of the Church, and then accept it only in some of its parts.”

The Archbishop went on to say: “The path of the Church leads ahead, and all are invited not to enclose themselves in a self-referential way of thinking, but rather to accept the full life and the full faith of the Church.”

In the archbishop’s words are the seeds of rebirth, a rooting out of error, and the beginning of a new era of faith.

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avatar About Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap.

Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M.Cap., was ordained in Aug. 26, 1972. He is currently in the process of developing the Julia Greeley shelter for homeless, unaccompanied women in metro Denver. He is spiritual director and chaplain for Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity in Denver, as well as being one of the spiritual directors for the Missionaries of Charity in the western United States. He was director of prison ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver, from 1999 to 2010; a chaplain for Missionaries of Charity at their now-closed AIDS hospice, Seton House, and at Gift of Mary homeless shelter for women in Denver from 1989 to 2008; and in 1997, he was sent by Mother Teresa to instruct Missionaries of Charity in Madagascar and South Africa on the subject of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist . His articles have been published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Faith, Soul Magazine, Pastoral Life, and The Priest. He has also made two series for Mother Angelica's EWTN: “Crucial Questions,” “Catholic Answers,” and “What Did Vatican II Really Teach?”

Comments

  1. avatar LostInVaticanII says:

    Vatican2 marks the date that the Roman Catholic Church fell. That is when Martin Luther won, and swept away the Pope, the Vatican, and tradition. Today, all is just Protestant drivel, rapidly becoming nihilistic fatalism. We Are Doomed.

    • avatar Cotton says:

      Doomed? Consider Christ in the equation! Grasps the gospels, know the word!

      Cotton

    • avatar patrick says:

      Did you read the article?

    • avatar Harvey says:

      So you are saying that Scripture is errant — because in it Christ Himself proclaimed that the gates of Hell would never prevail on His Church. Does your view really make sense in light of that promise?

  2. avatar Mr. Two Cents says:

    Awesome article! I am breathing easier. And I will pray for Archbishop Muller.

  3. avatar Deacon Henry says:

    Well said Fr. Regis! Deo gratias.

  4. avatar Howard Kainz says:

    The problem with the liturgy is the easy one. But the most formidable problem is the dissent from Humanae Vitae. This dissent sums up what is meant by the “spirit of Vatican II.” Some tweaking of Lumen gentium may be insufficient to stem that tide.

    • avatar TerryC says:

      I disagree. The dissenters use Lumen gentium as cover. If the cover is removed they many continue to dissent, in fact they most certainly will. They will not however, be able to pretend that they are still members of the faithful in good standing, capable of presenting themselves for Communion at public events and calling themselves Catholic in political rallies.
      And moreover those who have been led astray by their teachings would have to decide whether they will follow the Church or dissent. Many will follow the Church. Those who don’t will at least have the truth clearly declared to them.

  5. avatar Dan says:

    personally I believe Archbishop Lefebvre and I think everything will balance out eventually

  6. avatar Joannie says:

    A Bishop from Europe a couple of years ago called for a new “Syllabus” much like the one by Pope Blessed Pius IX in his “Syllabus of Errors” only this one would be on the errors engendered by the false “Spirit of Vatican II” It has to be admitted that many of the statements in those texts are vague and confusing so hence the spinning about whether Nuns or sisters should wear “Modified” or no habits. The request was than made to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who instead decided to declare a Year of Faith which Pope Paul also did. It does not have to be condemning it just needs to be clarified by Pope Francis. Benedict did not rule out a Vatican III in his opinion.

  7. avatar Richard M says:

    “They reject the Second Vatican Council as a movement of the Holy Spirit, and cling to the minutiae of 500-year-old rituals as necessary, for their own sake. The change of the liturgy from Latin to English, or the vernacular of each particular country, is their most well-known objection.”

    It may be their best known objection, but it’s far from their most salient.

    To clarify: I am not SSPX, and I cannot in any way condone the illegal consecrations of 1988, or some of the other statements that the Society has made. But I do think there is a serious risk here that Fr. Scanlon misrepresents the Society’s objections to Vatican II and the post-conciliar reforms by seemingly reducing it all to an attachment to the use of Latin and arcane rubrics in the Mass.

    The reason why the Vatican entered into doctrinal talks with the SSPX in 2010-2011 was precisely because both the Pope and the SSPX agreed that…the real differences involved are, in fact, doctrinal. The main concerns revolve around the treatments by the Council of ecumenism, religious liberty and collegiality. And even their objections to the Missal of Paul VI are more substantive than represented here: it was not just Latin that was eliminated (de facto, at least, in contravention to the Council’s prescriptions) but the entire Mass (and indeed, all the other sacraments) were overhauled, resulting in greatly changed collects, propers, a new offertory, multiple Eucharistic prayers, a greatly expanded lectionary – the result of which was, overall, a notable theological shift from the ancient Roman Rite. Some of the recent work on the reformed Roman Rite by Lauren Pristas of Caldwell College is on point here.

    I share some of these concerns, especially about the Ordinary Form, even as I do not think they justify disobedience. I think that Thomas Pink, for example, has done some fairly persuasive work in reconciling pre-conciliar statements on ecumenism and religious liberty with those in Vatican II. But that is the problem: The Council too often simply did not bother with the hard work of doing this reconciliation when it made statements that seemed in stark contradiction to those of preconciliar Popes and Councils.

    At any rate, the SSPX’s concerns are certainly much wider ranger and more fundamental than represented in this article, and in some cases are shared by others in the Church (including even, at a few points, albeit in qualified ways, by Pope Benedict himself). There are valid concerns with SSPX positions and actions, but accuracy requires that these be fairly represented.

  8. avatar MichaelP says:

    And if/when what you suggest happens and the dissenters still dissent and teach their falsehoods in the schools and the churches, then what? I think one clearly sees that “mercy”, if you want to call it that (mercy today is used by those that refuse to do their job and hold people accountable), will have to come to an end at some point and justice will have to be enacted. Even Christ’s mercy stops at the point of death and judgment is dealt. One cannot justly provide “mercy” when the one they are being “merciful” to is scandalizing and leading others souls astray. I would not want that on my record at the point of death.

    It is time for justice. 50 years of “mercy” has gotten a whole lot of sheep lost.

    I thank you for the article and allowing for this conversation.

    God bless,
    Michael

  9. avatar Joe Bollig says:

    Yay Father Regis! Go Monarchs!

  10. avatar Michael says:

    Dr. Tracey Rowland of the Pope John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family in Australia has a similar article out in “Catholic World Report” concerning the Emeritus Bishop of Rome Benedict XVI and the “Virtual Council”. Very good article Father Scanlon, OFMCap. Thank you.
    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2196/benedict_xvi_and_the_end_of_the_virtual_council.aspx#.UXciBuCqDS8

  11. avatar JM says:

    “They reject the Second Vatican Council as a movement of the Holy Spirit, and cling to the minutiae of 500-year-old rituals as necessary, for their own sake. The change of the liturgy from Latin to English, or the vernacular of each particular country, is their most well-known objection.”

    Their most well known, but not their fundamental one.

    Which I find hard to believe Scanlon does not know, unless he has dialogued with none of them. Such a dismissal is easy but unfair, even if it echoes Cardinal Muller’s.

    Say what you will about them, the SSPX no more clings to minutiae than the elderly Cardinals can be said to cling to the Sixties culture that colored so much of the Council. Tan Book’s new “The Council in Question” featuring Aidan Nichols is an excellent summary of the problems, endorsed by Cardinal Pell. It is shorter, and relevant to many of the problems that dog us. In fact, it makes a good chaser to Weigel’s latest.

  12. My take is this: only when the Church gets around to implementing Pascendi Dominici Gregis will it be safe to implement Vatican-II.

    http://culbreath.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/on-the-non-implementation-of-vatican-ii/

  13. avatar rod larocque says:

    The characterisation of the SSPX position here is insulting. The liturgy is not their essential area of concern, the liturgical reforms is symbolic of the doctrinal reform after V2.
    One question no one seems to ask is simply “what value does a council have when 50 years later people are bickering about what it ‘really’ means?” I would venture a guess that it has little or not value, considering it defined no NEW doctrine or dogma, and since it seems to have caused more trouble and confusion and solved no problems within the Church it should be pitched down the memory hole of history, before the Church auto-destructs.
    In times of confusion the safest course of action is to do what is always been done and believe what has always been believed. This is the traditionalist perspective, with the hope that one day a holy pople will sort out the confusion, though it seems with this new pople we will have to wait a long long time. He gives no indication to abandoning the dangerous path of V2, infact he seems to want to make things worse. I hope I am wrong.

  14. avatar Dr. Robert Brown says:

    Garden variety neo-con stuff by Fr Scanlon.

    He correctly notes that doctrinal dissent is inconsistent with Lumen Gentium. Then he refers to the SSPX objection to the vernacularization of the liturgy as if that is also inconsistent with Vat II. In fact, Sacrosanctum Concilium is very clear that Latin is to remain the norm in liturgy. Further, clerics are to say the Divine Office in Latin.

    And then there is the little matter of his notion of “clinging to the minutiae of 500-year-old rituals” , evidently not realizing that most of those “minutiae” have symbolic meaning. Besides, once they were eliminated, the laity then became subject to the idiosyncratic minutiae of various celebrants.

  15. avatar Martin B Drew says:

    Thank you Father Scanlon your explanation of the situation in 1963-64 with Lumen Gentium was right on target. Piety and devotion to Jesus Christ who is the source of papal magisterium and the extraordinary episcopal magisterium. I am with you all days even to the end of time., Piety and devotion and loving assent should be expressed by all catholics. for doctrine and Morals . No doctrine or moral teaching from the Holy Spirit , Tradition and papal infallible teaching will harm anyone. But I am happy with using the vernacular at mass and at the administration of the Sacraments.

  16. avatar Ted Heywood says:

    Excellent commentary and review.
    It is well past the time that the ‘Church’ should recognize those that self identify as Liberal’Progressive Catholics and as Conservative Catholics as our very own modern day Pharisees and treat with them as Christ treated the Pharisees with whom he contended.
    Either one is a Catholic or not. There are no shades of grey.
    Avoiding unpleasentess has always resulted in continuation of what you are avoiding. Whether it is homosexual/pedophile priests, priestly heterosexual relationships , or dissent from doctrine. Makes no difference whatsoever. The aberrant bahavior will continue to eat away at the Church until directly addressed and rejected and the truth is clarified and supported.

  17. avatar K C Thomas says:

    May I request that the Document ” Lumen Gentium” be published in your columns ? If it is too long, at least the important part may be made known to the laity . First, let us see the full Lumen gentium no 25.
    Thank you

  18. avatar bill bannon says:

    The solution is for a Pope to do an ex cathedra encyclical on Humanae Vitae matter. John Paul may have tried a short cut to that because he did bring abortion and euthanasia under the extraordinary magisterium by polling by mail the world’s bishops on those two and on killing the innocent….and printing three brief but infallible declarations on them in Evangelium Vitae. I’m sure he also tried on birth control but got too many dissenting bishops. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Africa e.g. wants condoms for married HIV affected couples.
    Lumen Gentium 25 is a partial truth even in terms of the Church’s practice of giving the imprimatur to seminary moral theology tomes which permit sincere, prayerful dissent to the not clearly infallible ( see Germain Grisez’ “Christian Moral Principles”, page 854). Grisez is conservative and was last year supported in his debate on marriage at the Jesuit “Theological Studies”. But even he in effect makes the traditional incere dissent clause as an exception to LG 25. The exception is mandatory because Fr. Scanlon is not adverting to the historical disasters in the past when Catholics failed to dissent from papal positions that led to intrinsic evils….e.g. burning heretics….now condemned in section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth”…(“coercion of spirit”). If you objected to burning heretics as against the Holy Spirit after “Exsurge Domine”, 1520, you were excommunicated latae sententiae. Now the entire hierarchy is positioned against burning heretics. Fr. Scanlon fails to note that Lumen Gentium 22 ( not 25) says that when you hear the Bishops, you hear Christ. True only with a host of caveats which are missing from Lumen Gentium. Think of the Bishops right now like Chaput who are saying that the death penalty is against human dignity. That’s news to the Holy Spirit who inspired Romans 13:4 WHILE there were life sentences in the Roman empire….in the mines…which no one escaped unlike drug cartel head, Guzman escaping maximum security in Mexico in the second largest Catholic population on earth.
    You need dissent from the non infallible. The burning of perhaps 6000 heretics ( Will Durant’s count) which is now an intrinsic evil is one reason amongst others. The 29 Pope involvement with the castrati is another ( a topic blocked out it seems at new advent’s encyclopedia though in every major encyclopedia. The enslavement permission to Iberia by Pope Nicholas V and four subsequent Popes is another. Ergo the solution is not LG 25 but a Pope doing the hard work of ex cathedra. John Paul was the obvious candidate but he did not do it but went lower venue than normal with the TOB lectures.

  19. avatar Fr. Markovitch says:

    I don’t understand the assertion made here.

    Is it that the following (excerpt from this article):

    The exception is mandatory because Fr. Scanlon is not adverting to the historical disasters in the past when Catholics failed to dissent from papal positions that led to intrinsic evils….e.g. burning heretics….now condemned in section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth”…(“coercion of spirit”). If you objected to burning heretics as against the Holy Spirit after “Exsurge Domine”, 1520, you were excommunicated latae sententiae. Now the entire hierarchy is positioned against burning heretics.

    Is it the position of Fr. Scanlon, that the burning of heretics was to influence their views, as opposed to punishment for threatening the future eternal life of the faithful?

    I don’t understand.

    Please help.

    • avatar bill bannon says:

      Fr. Markovitch,
      You wrote, ” Is it the position of Fr. Scanlon, that the burning of heretics was to influence their views, as opposed to punishment for threatening the future eternal life of the faithful?”
      Fr, Scanlon avoids that topic but either way, section 80 of ” Splendor of the Truth” not only denounces “coercion of spirit” but ” whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit”. So the two motives you give as alternatives are a moot point because with either motive…the burning was wrong unless you think section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” is wrong. If the burning was not to influence their views but to protect the faithful, it was nevertheless a torturous death physically which physical torture section 80 also denounces..not to mention that you could protect the faithful with life sentences which the
      Inquisition also gave. In most Church involved instances except e.g. an incident that involved Pope Paul IV in Spain, first time repentant and retracting heretics avoided burning which means in most cases, burning was to “coerce the spirit” since repentance and retraction voided burning…repenting of murder does not void execution in secular courts because it is punishment not persuasion.

      • avatar Fr. Markovitch says:

        Mr. Bannon:

        You state:

        section 80 of ” Splendor of the Truth” not only denounces “coercion of spirit” but ” whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit”. So the two motives you give as alternatives are a moot point because with either motive…the burning was wrong unless you think section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” is wrong.

        Sed Contra:
        A trial is the ascertaining of facts;
        A sentence is the impostion of a penalty proceding from the ascertaining of facts.
        Why must this automatically involve, by your equation, “Coercion of the spirit?”

        Relatedly, your last sentence lacks, at minimum, a verb to make it intelligible.

        Is your purpose to make it appear that the Church is frequently contradictory and wrong?

  20. avatar bill bannon says:

    Fr. Markovitch,
    The Church is never wrong when it accesses infallibility but it does not always access infallibility.
    It has had in the non infallible area regressions…not simly developments. The papal introduction of burning heretics under pain of excommunication for secular leaders in 1253 under Pope Innocent IV was a regression downward from the majority view of the first five centuries that heretics were not to be killed ( Augustine, Ambrose, Chrysostom). The Church introduction of torture to obtain confessions in the same period was a regression vis a vis Pope Nicholas I’s condemnation of same in Ad Consulta Vestra, 866: ” a confession should be spontaneous, not forced. It should be proffered voluntarily, not
    violently extorted.”
    “Ex Surge Domine” in 1520 doctrinally but non infallibly supported the burnings because the Pope
    excommunicated any Catholics who agreed with the younger Luther that burning heretics was against the Holy Spirit. But now the Church itself agrees with the younger Luther (who later became violent himself)…but the Church also agrees with the early sints mentioned.
    Here is 4th century St. Cyprian of Carthage who was similar to the above named saints and Luther:
    ” Religion being a matter of the will, it cannot be forced on anyone; in this matter it is better to employ words than blows [verbis melius quam verberibus res agenda est]. Of what use is cruelty? What has the rack to do with piety? Surely there is no connection between truth and violence, between justice and cruelty . . . . It is true that nothing is so important as religion, and one must defend it at any cost [summâ vi] . . . It is true that it must be protected, but by dying for it, not by killing others; by long-suffering, not by violence; by faith, not by crime. If you attempt to defend religion with bloodshed and torture, what you do is not defense, but desecration and insult. For nothing is so intrinsically a matter of free will as religion.” (Divine Institutes V:20)
    So we have saints early in the Church denouncing killing of heretics. We have Popes in 1253 and 1520 making killing heretics non infallible teaching and we have the present Church siding with the early saints and Luther.
    What Fr. Scanlon’s article wants is for a Pope to declare infallible Lumen Gentium’s requirement of “religious submission of mind and will…etc.” to the non infallible papal documents. That would mean that you Father would have obediently burned heretics in 1288 and 1530 but would obediently not burn them in 2013 because that would be intrinsically evil. What Fr. Scanlon misses is not only the absurdities that leads to historically but he has missed the exception in moral theology tomes like Grisez’ which predate and postdate Lumen Gentium 25. In others words Lumen Gentium 25 was challenged at the Council by three bishops who pointed out the historical problems inherent in it. According to Fr. Francis Sullivan, they were told by the Theological Commission to consult the moral theology tomes on the exception…but that was their point: the exception should have been stated alongside LG’s ” religious submission of mind and will”.

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  2. [...] – Dr. Ed Peters, Canon Law Blog Dumbing it Down – Burke Ingraffia, Ignitum Today 50 Years Later, Vatican 2’s Unfinished Business – Fr. R. Scanlon OFMCap What Type of Spiritual Poverty Do You Suffer From? – Anabelle [...]

  3. [...] Homiletic and Pastoral Review there is a good article by Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap.  Let’s see the first part, with my [...]

  4. [...] Homiletic and Pastoral Review there is a good article by Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFMCap.  Let’s see the first part, with my [...]

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  6. [...] Fifty Years Later–Vatican II’s Unfinished BusinessToday, 50 years after the opening of Vatican II, the misinterpretation of one of its most salient documents, Lumen Gentium, continues to drive a number of Catholics in the United States into one of two camps, the “right” or the “left.”   Fifty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, the Church in the United States is in the throes of a struggle. Loyal Catholics are showing renewed vigor and vitality, and are helping the Church to move forward in unity. At the same time, the Church is also being exhausted and drained from within by a vocal movement of other Catholics who continue to dissent from Church teachings, particularly the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.…more [...]

  7. [...] note: This essay first appeared April 22, 2013 in Homiletic and Pastoral Review and is reprinted with [...]

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