Can Vatican II be Erased?
There have been some interesting developments in the discussion on Vatican II over the last few days.
Father Weinandy's latest response, posted in Catholic World Report here, takes a more personal turn - which I find more than a little disappointing. He does, however make some important points about Vatican II:
Vatican II is not, to use the archbishop’s term, a “container-council” into which false doctrine was poured. What counts is what the Council taught, though one has to take into account, as the Council itself did, of the magisterial authority of each of it documents. As Dogmatic Constitutions, Lumen Gentium and Dei Verbum have much greater magisterial authority than those documents that are titled Decrees and Declarations. Even worse, because the archbishop sees Vatican II as a “container-council” into which heretical elements were smuggled, he designates it “a devil council.” If such was and still is the case, then we would have to admit that Ecumenical Councils do not necessarily teach reliably the faith handed down from the apostles, even where a council, including Vatican II, intends to state definitive doctrine.
I do find myself deeply troubled by the idea that we could consider the Council to be counterfeit in anyway. Where would this leave us in considering the validity of doctrine and the continuity of Apostolic succession? These are issues which I have yet to fully understand, but it would seem to be an admission of fallibility which would endanger the Papal infallibility in a very real sense. Given the problems Archbishop Viganò points out, Fr Weinandy's comments seem much more appropriate:
...there may be some ambiguities, but such ambiguity is not unique to Councils. There has always been some give-and-take when it comes to language, but whatever noetic content is contained in such language, it must be interpreted within the overarching previous magisterial and conciliar teaching.
The key to recognising sound teaching is the measure with which it is in agreement with what has always been taught. Therefore interpretations of Vatican II's teaching which sought to introduce novelties can clearly be seen and condemned. Weinandy says as much:
I want now to address what I consider to be a very important component of Vatican II’s reception – the sensus fidelium – the sense of the faithful. After the Council, many lay Catholic men and women were, and are still, scandalized and angry by what took place, especially within their local Eucharistic celebrations. Yet, in the midst of all the bedlam, most of them never doubted that Vatican II was a true Ecumenical Council, an authoritative hierarchical assembly of the Church to which they belong. Moreover, most of the laity did not condemn the Council as such for what was taking place within their parishes. Rather, they recognized that the aberrations they were experiencing were the products of their sincere but misguided, and often wacky, pastors [emphasis mine]. Their very sense of the faith confirmed, and continues to assert, the Spirit-filled authenticity of Vatican II.
Under Pope Francis we have reached something of a omega point which is very interesting to observe. Many of us who love the Church, love Christ and love His teaching find much of what is going on so at odds with the Gospel we have come to the point where we feel we have to reject it. In that rejection, we are looking at a very particular moment in Church history - a moment which could be over and forgotten in another five or ten years. Like Job we do not know what God's plan is or how it will work out. I am thus cautious about taking a radical approach to Vatican II which I recognise is attractive because it seeks to make the council the scapegoat for everything that is wrong in the Church's human/ political institution. It is tempting to think if we can only cast out Vatican II everything will go back to the way it was before. Seminaries will be full, priests will be intelligent, wise and faithful, nuns will teach in our schools and we will all hold the Blessed Sacrament with the appropriate reverence. But I do not think for one moment that is true.
If we could find a way to acknowledge the ambiguities and deal with them, we could move forward together. All this is achievable, in my estimation, if the next Pope is a unifying figure who gives us the confidence we lack under Pope Francis.
The final paragraph is the one that could be said to descend a little into ad hominem:
Upon reading the archbishop’s letter to me, the question came to me, and it has come to others a well: Did he actually write the letter? Yes, he signed the letter, and the letter may express his thought, but was he the one who composed on his computer the main arguments contained in the letter? I suspect not. The archbishop customarily writes in a hasty, meandering, stream-of-consciousness manner. Because of this manner of composing, he often does not express himself in a clear and logical manner, and thus, often he has to offer later corrections or clarifications. In his present letter to me, the style is much different. The arguments are clearly and logically put forward, though they are, while clever, counterfeit. Nonetheless, the stylistic marks of this letter manifest a hand that is not the archbishop’s. This does not undermine the letter’s authenticity, but it does mean that the archbishop is influenced by someone who shares the same false ideology as himself, and maybe in a manner that exceeds his own.
Personally I think this was unnecessary. It would have been better to address the argument rather than question the validity of the author. It does however raise the question of who Fr Weinandy considers could be manipulating the Archbishop? It seems he is saying that, because of his stance, he has found support with more radical anti-Vatican II factions and is relying on them for his argument.