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Giovanni Cavalcoli: The Infallibility Of Vatican II

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Giovanni Cavalcoli: The Infallibility Of Vatican II

Post  MRyan on Sat Jan 21, 2012 8:26 pm

Giovanni Cavalcoli: The Infallibility Of Vatican II

The ongoing debates between various theological experts (hosted by Sandro Magister [at]) has produced a number of interesting exchanges and clarifications. For example, in one postcript, Fr. Giovanni Cavolcoli clarifies his position relative to the doctrinal authority of Vatican II.

All agree that there are three basic "degrees" of Catholic teaching. The first and second degrees are infallible and definitive. The third degree, however, while demanding religious assent is nevertheless reformable. At the same time, however, it would be false to assume that this "reformability" implies the possibility of a contradiction between the various levels or degrees of doctrine. So we are left with something of a parodox: if third degree doctrines can't contradict doctrines of the first and second degree then in what sense can these be fallible? Fr. Cavalcoli resolves the problem by distinguishing between (a) the dogmatic order and (b) practical-pastoral directives []. The supreme magisterium can never defect with respect to the former (a) -- even if it is subject to err at times in the later (b). The reason is that doctrines of the third degree can treat dogmatic elements that are proposed in a manner that is nevertheless comingled with non-dogmatic and contingent aspects:

"The third degree also admits the fallibility of opinions and doctrines of a pastoral, moral or legal character."
(Adapted from Google Translation)

Therefore, the hermeneutic of reform in continuity presupposes that the development of newer points of doctrine (third degree doctrines) must be perfectly compatible and analogically homogeneous with previously declared doctrines of the first and second degrees. At the same time, however, third degree doctrines are not irreformable and "definitive" insofar as they contain contingent aspects related to the pastoral-prudential order. The proper understanding of these distinctions is the key to the hermeneutic of reform in continuity and protects us from the dangers of rupture theology [].
As K. Gueries also writes (

“It is noteworthy that three of the four rejected doctrines (above) [by the SSPX on Religious Liberty, the Church, Ecumenism, and collegiality] are taken directly from the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium promulgated by Pope Paul VI in the following manner:

"Each and all these items which are set forth in this dogmatic Constitution have met with the approval of the Council Fathers. And We by the apostolic power given Us by Christ together with the Venerable Fathers in the Holy Spirit, approve, decree and establish it and command that what has thus been decided in the Council be promulgated for the glory of God."

Given in Rome at St. Peter's on November 21, 1964.
However, “Andrea Tornielli reports that Bishop Fellay subsequently delivered a ‘second response’ to the Holy See concerning the doctrinal preamble. This second ‘concise’ response is said to comply with the expected format enabling the process to take a step forward.” So we’ll see what develops from the Vatican’s review of the second response.

The confusion in interpreting Lumen Gentium, for example, stems from the inherent difficulty in reading a Dogmatic Constitution that pertain largely to “doctrines of the third degree” and that “treat dogmatic elements that are proposed in a manner that is nevertheless co-mingled with non-dogmatic and contingent aspects”.

Only sedevacantists and radical traditionalists are brazen enough to accuse an Ecumenical Council of teaching “error” with respect to magisterial teachings that are allegedly opposed to infallible doctrines (“rupture theology”), where in truth only doctrines of the third degree that are “of a pastoral, moral or legal character” can be said to be subject to error and may be challenged, while giving due deference to the Magisterium.

The SSPX may ultimately serve a useful purpose in having the Vatican "finally" clarify these critical distinctions that are easily lost due to the pastoral nature and ambiguity of some of the VCII documents that deal largely with doctrines of the third degree where irreformable dogmatic elements are sometimes co-mingled with reformable non-dogmatic and contingent aspects. Unfortunately, there is a “hard-core” faction within the SSPX that thinks it is smarter than the Church … and who see any capitulation to the authority of the Church in these matters as a betrayal to their private version of Catholic truth and tradition.

All of those who have accused the Church of teaching “heresy” and/or with causing a “rupture” (between the irreformable aspects of doctrines and tradition) with her Magisterial proclamations and Dogmatic Constitutions are, and will continue to be, proven wrong. It would be nice if the Vatican would put some "finality" to this while clearing up the remaining legitimate issues.

Let’s pray the SSPX stays on the right side of the fence.

Where there is Peter, there is the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.


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Re: Giovanni Cavalcoli: The Infallibility Of Vatican II

Post  DeSelby on Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:43 pm

I've been trying to wrap my mind around some points made on, amongst other things, religious liberty in the document Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Roman Curia offering them his Christmas Greetings.

There's much more to be quoted from this speech, but for the sake of space I'm just going to start here, with this:

These are all subjects of great importance - they were the great themes of the second part of the Council - on which it is impossible to reflect more broadly in this context. It is clear that in all these sectors, which all together form a single problem, some kind of discontinuity might emerge. Indeed, a discontinuity had been revealed but in which, after the various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to have been abandoned. It is easy to miss this fact at a first glance.

It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church's decisions on contingent matters - for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible - should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. 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.

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. The ancient Church naturally prayed for the emperors and political leaders out of duty (cf. I Tm 2: 2); but while she prayed for the emperors, she refused to worship them and thereby clearly rejected the religion of the State.

The martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in that God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason they also died for freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one's own faith - a profession that no State can impose but which, instead, can only be claimed with God's grace in freedom of conscience. A missionary Church known for proclaiming her message to all peoples must necessarily work for the freedom of the faith. She desires to transmit the gift of the truth that exists for one and all.

At the same time, she assures peoples and their Governments that she does not wish to destroy their identity and culture by doing so, but to give them, on the contrary, a response which, in their innermost depths, they are waiting for - a response with which the multiplicity of cultures is not lost but instead unity between men and women increases and thus also peace between peoples.

The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.

So, what's the gist here? That there should be no Catholic state? That it was an error when there was one? Or what? Implicitly, it seems (to me at least) that a straw man of sorts is being set up where a "Catholic state" could only mean "forced conversions."

And since a Catholic state would be inappropriate, the ideal, then, would be some sort "neutral" secular state. For earlier in the speech he had stated that,
People came to realize that the American Revolution was offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of the French Revolution. [...] In the period between the two World Wars and especially after the Second World War, Catholic statesmen demonstrated that a modern secular State could exist that was not neutral regarding values but alive, drawing from the great ethical sources opened by Christianity.

(What does that last part even mean? Anyway...)

So at the Second Vatican Council,
... it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship between the Church and the modern State that would make room impartially for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for the freedom to practise their own religion.

I'll try to continue latter.

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Re: Giovanni Cavalcoli: The Infallibility Of Vatican II

Post  Jehanne on Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:19 pm

He's at least honest:

The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.

To sum-up:

1) Popes, over many centuries, erred, especially, in advocating that unrepentant heretics be put to death.

2) Heresy does not exist as a sin anymore, at least for "non-Catholic Christians."

Problem is, of course, if past Popes, along with ecumenical Councils, can err in their teachings, why can't the same thing be said about present "Popes" and the great Vatican II "super Council"?

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