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From an Internet Discussion List
Wasn't Vatican II Infallible?

In message #10853 OurRomanCatholicFaith@y..., on May 16, A.D. 2002,  
"Rev Fr Charles T Brusca" <> wrote:
[In response to a discussion about whether or not Vatican II defined anything infallibly.]

Dear Listmembers:

    As a general rule, entire councils or entire documents issued by councils or Popes are not infallible in the extraordinary sense. Normally, a document will contain a small number of truths which all Catholics must believe (or not believe) in order to be Catholics; taught with the supreme authority of the Church such truths are infallible.

    By way of example, when Bd. Pope Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception he published a rather comprehensive history of the doctrine before coming to the actual definition, which took precisely one sentence.  The document, Ineffabilis Deus, contained a great deal of information but the exercise of the extraordinary magisterium lies in that single sentence.  Much of the document dealt with history rather than faith or morals and couldn't have been the subject of an infallible pronouncement.

    The purpose of an extraordinary pronouncement is to give certainty to the faithful where certainty did not exist before.  It must be clearly stated what Catholics are required to believe.  If a pronouncement is not clearly infallible -- if it doesn't clearly say "you must (or must not) believe ___," it is not infallible.  This requirement was contained in Canon Law both before and after Vatican II (Cf. o.c. 1323; n.c. 749).

    The human mind is not capable of taking in the entirety of a long document and making it the object of religious belief.  A few dozen articles in a creed are one thing about which to say "I believe" but a twenty-five page essay is quite another.  The documents of Vatican-II are much longer still -- generally leading to sleep rather than to certainty.

    About the only way an entire document could be infallible in the extraordinary sense would be for it to be a list of propositions that must be believed or are condemned -- lists of anathemas, such as we saw from Trent, but which Vatican II refused to produce.

    Of course any document may contain infallible teaching through the ordinary magisterium -- but there is still the problem of identifying that teaching as such.  Identifying the ordinary magisterial teaching of the Church is an historical problem, for one must read not only the documents at hand, but also be familiar with the comprehensive teaching of the Church about the matter over the centuries and across the world.  The Catholic Encyclopedia has a good article (s.v. "Infallibility") which describes this problem in detail.

    There was an uncharacteristically excellent article published in the March 21, 2002 Wanderer,  "The True Idea Of A Pope's Infallible Teaching," by Farley Clinton.  The article is largely a translation of the exposition by Dom Mauro Capellari in 1799, before he became Pope Gregory XVI.  It is way too long to reproduce here, but the following paragraphs are germane to this thread:

    "The chief examples of such language [required of an infallible pronouncement] are a condemnation of some doctrine as 'heretical' -- or pronouncing the 'anathema' against any who in future maintain the condemned doctrine.

    "We should not, therefore, regard a papal statement in which you do not find these terms, or some language that is equivalent to them, has the same import, as being definitions ex cathedra.

    "We should not think that the Pope, in judgments or decisions where we do not find some language of this kind, has intended to exercise the fullness of his authority.

    "It is often enough necessary to apply, to different parts of one and the same papal pronouncement, this vital distinction between the words of the supreme judge and those of a private theologian.  Where the Pope offers reasons or arguments in defense of the belief he is defining, he is speaking as no more than a simple theologian, although he is one who deserves great respect."

    Vatican II was not infallible.  And to compare its documents to the Bible, as Father  heard Bishop Bruskewitz do, is blasphemy.

    Oremus et pro invicem!

in Xto,
Fr. Brusca
(NO relation to Bruskewitz!)
--- End forwarded message ---

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