Let’s begin with what Pope Francis stated. It was in a speech on January 30th, 2021, “Address By Holy Father Francisco To The Participants In The Meeting Organized By The National Office Of Catechesis Of The Italian Episcopal Conference”. And here is the most surprising and delightful expression of truth in that speech. First, he speaks about the Second Vatican Council. Then he says:
“This is the magisterium: the Council is the magisterium of the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or interpret it your way, as you want, you are not with the Church. In this regard we have to be demanding, severe. No, the Council does not negotiate to have more of these … No, the Council is like that. And this problem that we are experiencing, of selectivity of the Council, has been repeated throughout history with other Councils. It gives me so much to think about a group of bishops who left after Vatican I, a group of lay people, other groups, to continue the “true doctrine” that was not that of Vatican I. “We are the true Catholics.” .. Today they ordain women. The most severe attitude, to guard the faith without the magisterium of the Church, leads you to ruin. Please….” [Source]
What Pope Francis is saying is that anyone who either rejects Vatican II, or sets it aside to be ignored, or radically reinterprets its teaching is “not with the Church”. Instead, they are like the group who departed from the Church after Vatican I — a group of heretics and schismatics. So the expression “not with the Church” means that those who reject or distort Vatican II are heretics and schismatics. And that can only be the case if the teaching of Vatican II is infallible.
Bellarmine: “It must be held with Catholic faith that general Councils confirmed by the Supreme Pontiff can neither err in faith nor morals.” [De Controversiis, On the Church, Book II, trans. Ryan Grant, Mediatrix Press, 2017, chapter 2, p. 122.]
The same idea is expressed by Ludwig Ott, in his famous book The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma: “It has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church from the earliest times that the teachings of the General Councils are infallible.” [Ott, The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma Revised and Updated Edition (London: Baronius Press, 2018), p. 321.]
Moreover, the teachings of Vatican II have continued to be taught by the successive Popes and by the body of Bishops dispersed through the world as one position definitively to be held. Some say that Vatican II did not teach infallibly because they chose not to use discrete Canons with attached anathemas. But the teaching of the Council was, nevertheless, definitively taught, even if nothing in the texts constitutes a formal definition. It can also be argued, reasonably, that some of the teachings of Vatican II are formal definitions, such as Lumen Gentium 25 on the Ordinary universal Magisterium. But in any case, no Ecumenical Council has ever been corrected by a subsequent Pope or Council on any teaching of faith or morals approved by the Pope. Therefore, considering all of the above, the teachings of Vatican II are infallible and those who reject the teaching of Vatican II are not with the Church. They are heretics and schismatics, just like the group that left the Church after Vatican I.
Note that Vatican I reaffirmed the indefectibility of the Church, and defined that every Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith. The teachings of Vatican I imply that no Pope accepted by the body of Bishops can teach grave error, nor fail gravely in faith. Therefore, Pope Francis and every other Pope accused of such things is innocent, and their accusers are heretics and schismatics.
Notice also that Pope Francis, above, reaffirms the teachings of Vatican I and II, and reaffirms the teaching that women cannot be ordained. (Whether Francis will decide the question of women deacons remains to be seen.)
Then Pope Francis says: “The most severe attitude, to guard the faith without the magisterium of the Church, leads you to ruin.” This is the position of Vigano, Schneider, Burke, Ripperger, and other papal accusers, including several persons writing at OnePeterFive and LifeSiteNews and at other outlets. They claim to be guarding the Faith, but at the same time they reject the Magisterium. Therefore, they are leading to ruin.
The above statement from the Pope seems to be a clear reply to the claims of Vigano and Schneider and others against Vatican II. Pope Francis is saying to Vigano and Schneider: You are not with the Church. You are heretics and schismatics, just like the group who rejected Vatican I.
And this comparison is apt because the papal accusers also reject Vatican I directly, by rejecting its teaching on the charism of truth and of never-failing faith given to each Pope.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.