In his latest post at his website, the New South Wales solicitor and amateur Thomist Mr. Michael Baker has repeated his argument that the Second Vatican Council was not a valid Ecumenical Council. (I had intended to refute that argument when he advanced it earlier but I never got around to it.) Mr. Baker asks
how, if Vatican II was an ecumenical council, could [its teachings] conflict with ["hitherto established or infallible Catholic"] teaching?
[italics in the original, my square-bracketed interpolations]
Mr. Baker sets out his argument for the invalidity of the Second Vatican Council as follows:
The gratia gratis datae of infallibility is given to the college of bishops only for adequate reason. An ecumenical (or general) council is called by a pope to address some issue whose determination is essential to the welfare of the Church and the faithful. The welfare of Church and faithful is its end; its finality. Now the form (essence) of anything follows its finality.
In his Opening Speech to the Council Fathers, John XXIII acknowledged that there was no issue of doctrine or discipline to be determined, but that he had convoked the Council to make the Church relevant to the world, a reason conveniently summarised in a word he had coined in an earlier speech—aggiornamento. The Council was “to bring the Church up to date”. But the Church had no such need: the Church is outside time. Since, therefore, there was nothing essential to the welfare of the Church and the faithful to justify its convoking, Vatican II was not an ecumenical council.
[italics in the original]
Since the Church does not contradict herself, it is therefore impossible that the teaching of the Council’s bishops in Dignitatis Humanae was uttered by the Church.
[italics in the original]
Now to return to the a priori argument: Mr. Baker's argument there is basically that since the Second Vatican Council did not, so he argues, have the final cause, the end, of an Ecumenical Council, it therefore cannot have been an Ecumenical Council. His argument fails because Mr. Baker neglects the distinction between finis operis (end-of-work) and finis operantis (end-of-agent). A thing's end-of-agent need not be the same as its end-of-work in order for it truly to be the thing in question. To use an example which Mr. Baker has used: A table's end-of-work is to provide a stable surface on which to work or dine or whatever. It might have been that the carpenter's motive, his end-of-agent, in making the table was something completely different, but so long as it has the matter--the wood and nails and so on--and form--the 'tableness'--of a table, it is still a table, and capable of being put to a table's proper use. (Another example would be marriage. We know that matrimony's (primary) end is procreation and child-rearing. But if this were not the motive of the husband and wife, or even if the husband and wife had motives exclusive of this end, would it be a valid marriage? So long as the matter and form were there, there would still be a valid marriage.) Likewise for the Second Vatican Council: It had the matter--the world's Catholic bishops gathered together--and form--gathered together under the Pope--of an Ecumenical Council, so it cannot but have had the final cause of a Council, regardless of whatever novel motives the Pope might have had in convoking it, and regardless of whether or not it performed Acts of the Extraordinary Magisterium. (Though I'm not even sure that Bl. John XXIII.'s stated motive--explaining the Faith in a manner tailored to the needs of his time--was entirely novel, given that Reginald Pole gave something like that as one of the reasons for the Council of Trent.) Hence the only successful way to prove the invalidity of the Second Vatican Council by the lack of one or more of the four Aristotelian causes would be to reason like the Sedevacantists do and argue that Bl. John XXIII. or Paul VI. or both were false Popes, hence Vatican II lacked the formal cause and the efficient cause necessary to be a Council (and the material cause too, since a "Catholic bishop" is, by definition, a validly-consecrated bishop in communion with a true Pope). But there is no need to do so, since whatever difficulties there are in the documents of Vatican II, those documents are not (and don't pretend to be) Acts of the Extraordinary Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council was a true Ecumenical Council, albeit one which taught problematically, just as there have been true Popes who taught problematically--but never, in the cases of Councils or Popes, in their respective definitive pronouncements.
Perhaps now Mr. Baker can move on from his futile denials of the validity of the Second Vatican Council and, having come to see the problems with Dignitatis humanæ, turn his attention to the problems with the Novus Ordo Missæ.