There Is No Moving Beyond Vatican II

Note: There will come a day when a future Pope or Ecumenical Council will reaffirm the teachings of Vatican II on faith and morals as entirely infallible and as required belief under pain of heresy and excommunication. Anathema sint.

Moving Beyond Vatican II is a Crisis Magazine article by Eric Sammons. He attacks this Ecumenical Council with subtle and not-so-subtle expressions like “How do you solve a problem like Vatican II?” and “Perhaps, though, it’s time to move beyond the council.”

I would like to refute the views of Mr. Sammons in his article, by quoting the teachings of the Magisterium in the Second Vatican Council, but he does not accept that Council’s teaching as authoritative. Instead, he subjects that Council to an evaluation by the faithful, such that they can decide to ignore or deprecate its teachings in their entirety. Instead of a gathering of the Roman Pontiff with the body of Bishops, teaching with the full authority of Christ, Sammons speaks as if the Council can be revised, contradicted, and ignored on any number of excuses.

I could refute his views based on the First Vatican Council and the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs. But once you place yourself above any Council to judge its decisions on doctrine or discipline, you have in effect placed yourself above the Magisterium. An individual Pope teaches with the full authority of Christ; Popes are the Supreme Teachers and Judges over all the faithful and over doctrine as well as discipline. But Vatican II was led by two Popes, approved by Pope Saint Paul VI, and its teachings continued to be taught by every subsequent Roman Pontiff. So anyone who rejects Vatican II can use the same arguments to reject the teachings of Popes and Councils.

Such persons become uncorrectable. Any teaching of Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture can be interpreted according to their own minds, contrary to the teachings of the Magisterium. And any magisterial teaching can be dismissed as easily as an Ecumenical Council. Then, too, the teachings of Vatican II have continued to be taught by each successive Pope and by the body of Bishops dispersed in the world, making those teachings infallible under the ordinary universal Magisterium.

Sammons: “How can it ever be proper to criticize the highest authority (aside from the pope) in the Church? To ease those concerns, let me share a quote from Joseph Ratzinger, the man who would later become Pope Benedict XVI: ‘Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis, many of them have been a waste of time.’ “

The quote by Ratzinger is from “Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1987).” So it is a work of private theology. It is irrelevant that Ratzinger later became Roman Pontiff. Cardinals and Bishops, in their works of private theology, do not speak with any magisterial authority and do not have the protection of the Holy Spirit from grave error that Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils have. So one cannot use a source of zero authority in the Church to nullify an Ecumenical Council. And in fact, Pope Benedict XVI never spoke of Vatican II as being “a waste of time”. It is intellectually dishonest to imply that Vatican II was a waste if time using that quote.

Those who reject the Magisterium grasp at straws seeking its replacement.

Bellarmine: “A general Council represents the universal Church, and hence has the consensus of the universal Church; therefore, if the Church cannot err, neither can a legitimate and approved Ecumenical Council err.” [On Councils, book II, chapter 2]

However, this only applies to what is approved by the Roman Pontiff. And again, in Saint Robert Bellarmine, De Controversiis, there are several chapters explaining from Scripture, Tradition, and even from reason that Ecumenical Councils, approved by the Roman Pontiff, cannot err on faith or morals. And anything that must be held with Catholic faith (or divine and catholic faith) is an infallible teaching of the Magisterium.

Bellarmine: “It must be held with Catholic faith that general Councils confirmed by the Supreme Pontiff can neither err in faith nor morals.” [Saint Robert Bellarmine, 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.]

And not only the dogmatic canons of the Ecumenical Councils are infallible. Every definitive teaching of a Council, approved by the Roman Pontiff, must be infallible. For the teaching has the full authority of the Church. When the body of Bishops and the Roman Pontiff agree, the full authority of Christ, given to the Church, issues that teaching. A Council might err, to a less than grave extent, in a matter of prudential judgment, for such judgments are not secured by the teachings of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, but depend upon the testimony of fallen sinners. Even so, the indefectibility of the Church prevents grave errors even in discipline and prudential judgment.

In addition, there has never been a case of a teaching of an Ecumenical Council on faith or morals which was later corrected by a Roman Pontiff or another Ecumenical Council. So what did Vatican II do that causes so many Catholics to try to find ways to undermine and reject that one Council? Vatican II tried to correct the conservative Pharisees of today. That is the only “error” of the Council. Then the Pharisees rose up in pride and sought a multitude of different accusations to make against the Council, to deliver it to death.
[Mark]
{15:3} And the leaders of the priests accused him in many things.
{15:4} Then Pilate again questioned him, saying: “Do you not have any response? See how greatly they accuse you.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. Those teachings have been thoroughly integrated into the teachings of the successive Popes, of the Holy See, of the Bishops Conferences and individual Bishops dispersed throughout the world, so much so that these teachings are entirely inextricable from the Catholic Faith. That Faith is one Tapestry, woven from the vast number of teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, and no one can remove all the threads from the First and Second Vatican Councils. It is a part of the Faith now and forever, and if you cannot accept that, then you should leave the Church and start your own religion. Perhaps you would prefer a religion in which you are a god, and you invent all the doctrines and disciplines that you prefer? But wait, that is what these unfaithful accusers of Popes and Councils have already done. Inwardly they worship themselves.

Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette: “Tremble, earth and you who make profession of serving Jesus Christ and who on the inside you adore yourselves, tremble.”

Pope Francis on Vatican II:

“In this regard, I reiterate the words of Saint Paul VI, addressed to the first General Assembly of the CEI after Vatican II: ‘We must look to the Council with gratitude to God and with confidence for the future of the Church; it will be the great catechism of the new times’ (23 June 1966).”

“This is 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 you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the Church. We must be demanding and strict on this point. The Council should not be negotiated….”

“No, the Council is as it is. And this problem that we are experiencing, of selectivity with respect to the Council, has been repeated throughout history with other Councils. It makes me think of a group of bishops who, after Vatican I, left, a group of lay people, groups, to continue the ‘true doctrine’ that was not that of Vatican I: ‘We are the true Catholics’. Today they ordain women. The strictest attitude, to guard the faith without the Magisterium of the Church, leads you to ruin. Please, no concessions to those who try to present a catechesis that does not agree with the Magisterium of the Church.”

Roman Pontiffs do not only have authority when teaching infallibly. Ecumenical Councils do not only have authority when teaching infallibly — which encompasses every definitive teaching on faith or morals, with or without a formal definition. The Second Vatican Council “is the Magisterium of the Church”. You are with the Church, or you are against Her. “Whoever is not with me, is against me. And whoever does not gather with me, scatters.” (Mt 12:30).

Eric Sammons and is like-minded peers have rejected the Second Vatican Council. It does not matter whether they accuse the Council of heresy, a claim which is itself heresy, or whether they find more subtle expressions to ignore and denigrate the teachings of the Council. They have put themselves above the Magisterium and above the Church, usurping the role of God, who alone judges Popes, Councils, and the Church.

And notice what happens when the branch is separated from the vine. The group that departed from the Church, in their rejection of Vatican One, ended up teaching grave heresies, including the ordination of women — making the Sacraments ministered by those women also invalid (except for baptism).

Sammons: “Catholics need to recognize that sometimes councils succeed, and sometimes they fail. A common misconception among Catholics is that the Holy Spirit guides every aspect of ecumenical councils; therefore, all councils are “successful.” This is not Catholic teaching. The Holy Spirit acts primarily as a protector—He protects the deposit of faith by ensuring that no council can definitively declare heresy as Catholic truth. It’s a negative, not a positive, protection.”

There is no such teaching that sometimes Councils fail. Reframing the argument as success or failure is just a way to use semantics to undermine and reject Magisterial teaching.

There is no such teaching that the “Holy Spirit acts primarily as a protector,” merely to stop Councils from defining heresy.

There is no such teaching that the Spirit only provides “negative, not positive” protection. In fact, the Holy Spirit teaches through Roman Pontiff and Ecumenical Councils. This is not merely preventing heresies from being defined as dogma.

And this claim by Sammons suggests that he things Ecumenical Councils can teach heresy, as long as it is not a definitive declaration (a dogmatic definition). Such a claim is contrary to the teachings of Vatican One.

The protection of the Holy Spirit is not limited to preventing heresy. An infant does not teach heresy. An Ecumenical Council not only does not teach heresy, it never errs on faith or morals, never errs gravely on matters of discipline or prudential judgment, and teaches truth from the font of wisdom found in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.

At Vatican II itself teaches, the body of Bishops: “when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church….” [Lumen Gentium 25] They teach with the authority of Christ. Sammons is treating the Second Vatican Council, and every other Council, as if it were a merely human gathering, and as if the only role of the Spirit is to prevent infallible definitions from being heresy.

This view of Councils implies the same view of Popes. For a “council is never ecumenical unless it is confirmed or at least accepted as such by the successor of Peter….” [Lumen Gentium 22] And the successive Popes have continued to teach the teachings of Vatican II, not merely from time to time, but as an integral part of almost every papal document since that time.

“Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.” [Lumen Gentium 25]

The above teaching applies also when the Bishops are gathered in a Council, just as when they are dispersed in the world. They speak in the name of Christ. The faithful are to accept their teaching. And this is true also of the Roman Pontiff, even more so. Then when the Roman Pontiff gathers with the body of Bishops, even more so. It is utterly false and heretical to say that the teachings of the Roman Pontiff or the body of Bishops led by the Roman Pontiff, have no help or authority from Christ other than avoiding heresy when defining a dogma. The Church teaches in the Holy Spirit from the teachings of Christ.
[John]
{16:12} I still have many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them now.
{16:13} But when the Spirit of truth has arrived, he will teach the whole truth to you. For he will not be speaking from himself. Instead, whatever he will hear, he will speak. And he will announce to you the things that are to come.

Sammons: “Topics that a council emphasizes — or ignores — reflect a certain worldview, one which may no longer be appropriate for future generations.”

The same trick has been used by liberals to nullify teachings of Sacred Scripture that they dislike — that it reflects a worldview from the past, one that no longer applies. This idea puts nearly every teaching of Popes and Councils beneath the feet of every priest and lay person in the Church. It proposes that nothing taught by the Church requires assent, and that all is subject to the judgment of the individual.

This rejection Vatican II, proposed by Eric Sammons, is schismatic. The faithful cannot reject teachings of the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops, teachings which in this case have continued to be taught by successive Popes and Bishops dispersed in the world, merely by labelling that Council “unsuccessful”. No such authority is given to anyone, other than a Roman Pontiff, to reject a decision of an Ecumenical Council. Sammons is not the Roman Pontiff. And once a Council is approved by the Roman Pontiff, even subsequent Popes cannot change or reject a teaching on faith or morals. (Decisions of discipline and prudential judgment are subject to change, but still cannot err gravely.)

Sammons: “It’s a call to stop being handcuffed to that council, to move beyond it.”

The above quote, like much of the rest of Sammons article, is empty rhetoric.

This assertion is schismatic, as is the rest of the article. It doesn’t matter what wording is used. The Church teaches with the authority of Christ. If you do not like His teachings, go away. Find another religion. Found your own Church with yourself as the Rock on which it is built. But stop haranguing us faithful Catholics, who desperately desire to be taught and led by Christ through the Roman Pontiffs and the Bishops. If that is not what you want, go join a Protestant denomination. Or maybe you would like to be a member of one of the Orthodox Churches. But you cannot claim to be Catholic while rejecting any teaching or decision of any Pope or Council that you dislike.

Vatican I on Roman Pontiffs

I have spent much time on this blog teaching about the authority of the Roman Pontiff and his charisms, divinely-conferred for the sake of the faithful. What the faithful must understand, whenever there is an attack of this type, found in Sammons article and many other places, is that the teachings of the Church regarding the Roman Pontiff also apply to the Ecumenical Councils.

Since the Roman Pontiff has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith, and he is the head of a Council, and its decisions have no authority without his approval, then the same protections and charisms must apply to the teachings of the Council as to the teachings of any Roman Pontiff. The Council has the charism of truth and of never-failing faith, in the sense that they cannot err gravely on faith or morals, they cannot err gravely on discipline, and the the body of Bishops, only as a body, as well as the Roman Pontiff as an individual cannot gravely fail in faith.

Then, as the Apostolic See is unblemished by error, so also must each Ecumenical Council be unblemished by error on faith and morals. All of the teachings of the ordinary universal Magisterium and of the First Vatican Council about the Roman Pontiffs apply also to the teachings and decisions of any Ecumenical Council approved by the Roman Pontiff. For by his approval, he makes the decisions of the Council his own, just as, when a Council accepts a letter from the Roman Pontiff to the Council, the Council makes that letter its own teaching.

The teaching that the First See is judged by no one (but God), implies that each Ecumenical Council is judged by no one but God. For every Ecumenical Council is only a Council because it was approved by the Roman Pontiff. The teachings of any Ecumenical Council are the teachings of every successive Pope, as it has never been known that any Roman Pontiff rejected the teachings of a past Ecumenical Council.

Rejecting any Ecumenical Council is the sin of schism. Rejecting the teachings of an Ecumenical Council is a rejection of the teachings of every Pope and every Bishop who accepts and teachings again those same conciliar teachings. Rejecting the Second Vatican Council is an act of schism and heresy, as the claim that the faithful are free to reject a Council is heretical.

The Church has authority over all the faithful. It doesn’t matter how many people read your online magazine, or how many followers you have on social media, you do not have the right or role to stand in judgment over any Roman Pontiff or any Council.

All of these many, unfortunately common, articles attempting to justify the rejection of Vatican II and often other Ecumenical Councils as well, are contrary to the dogmas of the holy Catholic Faith, contrary to the teachings of the Popes, the Councils, and the ordinary universal Magisterium.

If you think that Vatican II erred gravely in any matter of faith, morals, or salvation, repent and go to Confession. Confess your sins of heresy and schism and pride. But if you cannot accept the teachings of the Council, leave the Catholic Church and find yourself a nice Protestant congregation. You are not Catholic anymore.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

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2 Responses to There Is No Moving Beyond Vatican II

  1. Matt Z. says:

    This video below is 22 minutes but this humble Franciscan Priest explains it well. The people that reject Vatican II are part of a cult. Many cultish groups out there today especially with the internet and false information.

  2. They have already moved beyond Vatican 2. It is called the spirit of Vatican 2 and it is still moving.

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