Monday, November 2, 2009

On the preparatory work for the Second Vatican Council

Here’s an interesting item from the “Out of the Past” column (a selection of brief articles from 100, fifty and twenty-five years ago) in yesterday’s Sydney Catholic Weekly (apparently not yet available on-line):

50 Years Ago – Nobember 5, 1959
THE Vatican Secretary of State, His Eminence, Cardinal Tardini, tonight (October 30) told an unprecedented full-fledged press conference that at least three years’ preparatory work is needed for the forthcoming Ecumenical Council. He said the Council, the first “Summit” meeting of Catholic Church leaders from all over the world since 1870, will be held in St Peter’s Basilica in 1963 or 1964. More than 1000 bishops and religious are expected to attend. Observers from other religions including the Russian Orthodox Church may also be present. The press conference, an innovation of Pope John XXIII’s surprise-filled reign, was packed with more than 300 Italian and foreign correspondents, including at least two Russians.
[The Catholic Weekly, Vol. 68, No. 4492, November 1, 2009, p. 21]
Three years’ preparatory work, indeed. As we know, the Council discarded, in highly irregular circumstances, the meticulously-produced preparatory schemata shortly after its opening. The late Msgr. Lefebvre, who was involved in the production of those schemata (His late Grace worked in the Central Preparatory Commission, if I recall correctly), described them in glowing terms—impeccably Traditional documents in which the formulation of doctrine was updated for the needs of the time but without compromising its Catholic spirit, and copies of which he kept into late in his holy life. (I myself have read the preparatory schema on religious tolerance—a copy is contained as an appendix in the late Mr. Michael Davies’s fine The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty—and I can attest that it is an excellent statement of the Traditional doctrine in those matters). Instead, we got, well, the documents of Vatican II—the French Revolution in the Church: Religious Liberty, Collegial Equality, Ecumenical Fraternity, as Msgr. Lefebvre entitles a chapter in his Open Letter to Confused Catholics (and even Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledged that the atmosphere at the Council was marked by a mood for absorbing into Catholic teaching the ‘best elements’ of the Enlightenment in, if I recall correctly, The Ratzinger Report—as though there can be anything in common between Christ and Belial, between the Deposit of Faith and the tenets of the French Revolution).

So despite having discarded many months of painstaking doctrinal work, the Council had gone on regardless! As Msgr. Lefebvre observed trenchantly in his Open Letter to Confused Catholics, what small business owner would carry on a meeting of his staff if the meeting’s agenda had to be discarded at the outset?! And so a fortiori one can only wonder at what the Pope and Council Fathers must have been thinking in deciding to continue, ad lib, with the Council. Indeed, it was a case of putting God to the test, and on an unprecedented scale. But God did not fail His Church; His protection of the Deposit of Faith consisted precisely in refusing to permit the teachings of Vatican II to be promulgated irreformably. Instead, we await—as the product, one hopes, of the S.S.P.X.-Vatican doctrinal discussions—the clarification of those parts of the documents which can be reconciled with Tradition, and the reform, in the manner of Pius XII correcting the teaching of the Council of Florence in his Apostolic Constitution Sacramentum Ordinis, of those parts which cannot.

Reginaldvs Cantvar
All Souls Day, A.D. 2009

7 comments:

Louise said...

what small business owner would carry on a meeting of his staff if the meeting’s agenda had to be discarded at the outset?!

sure, but then an ecumenical council is not a small business.

Cardinal Pole said...

"sure, but then an ecumenical council is not a small business."

Precisely. If you intended that remark as an objection, then I don't understand it. What did you mean there, Louise?

(Back on Monday)

Louise said...

I may have misread, the post, Pole, I'll go back and re-read carefully.

Louise said...

Upon re-reading, perhaps I don't fully understand your post. Are you saying the bishops were necessarily wrong to ditch the Agenda? If so, I can't necessarily see why.

I can say that there are ambiguities in the documents (at least the ones I've read) and it would be good to have them cleared up.

Louise said...

My objection, upon even more reflection, is that a Council wouldn't absolutely require a detailed agenda as far as I can tell.

Cardinal Pole said...

(Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, Louise.)

Louise, you said that

"Are you saying the bishops were necessarily wrong to ditch the Agenda?"

Yes, and that is also what Cardinal Tardini was saying, by anticipation:

"THE Vatican Secretary of State, His Eminence, Cardinal Tardini, tonight (October 30) told an unprecedented full-fledged press conference that at least three years’ preparatory work is needed for the forthcoming Ecumenical Council."

And of course, the preparatory work was primarily doctrinal rather than organisational (N.B. in Msgr. Lefebvre's analogy, the small-businessman's agenda is analogous to the preparatory schemata--that might be where the confusion is arising).

Louise said...

Yes, okay, I'm "with it" now. Mustn't go ditching doctrine.