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Part III.2.3: The Pastoral Council

By Jeremy Hausotter

May 16, 2021

Note on the Text:

Part III is broken up into nine separate pages because this investigation in Google Docs is approximately 130 pages. In Google Docs it is broken up into three parts, which the reader here can discern based on the numbering scheme. The reader will profit most by reading Part III in sequential order. Part III.1 develops the hermeneutic of faith. Part III.2 applies the hermeneutic of faith to several hermeneutical controversies of Vatican II. Part III.3 develops the hermeneutic of suspicion.

Table of Contents

2.3. The Hermeneutic of "Pastoral"

2.3.1. The Meaning of "Renewal"

2.3.2. Dogma and Continuity

2.3.3. The Meaning of "Pastoral"

2.3.4. Conclusion


2.3. The Hermeneutic of “Pastoral”

Vatican II is a pastoral council. From this fact of Vatican II’s pastorality some will argue that the Council is not a doctrinal council since it is pastoral. Pastoral councils, so the argument goes, are non-dogmatic and so non-binding. Therefore Vatican II is non-binding upon the faithful. Those who argue in this manner introduce a “dogmatic hermeneutic” which claims that there is an opposition between the “dogmatic” Ecumenical Councils against the “pastoral” Second Vatican Council. This hermeneutic understands pastorality to be opposed to dogma. Under this hermeneutic the exegete analyzes the texts and considers them from this dialectical tension between pastorality and dogma. The conciliar texts are hence viewed as the failed juxtaposition of pastoral modernism or insipidity with elements of “traditional” preconciliar theology. This hermeneutic presupposes a prior idealization of one narrative of preconciliar theology with the presumption of its superiority; for how else is one to judge Vatican II’s pastorality if there was no method to measure Vatican II’s theology against? This is not a criticism of preconciliar neoscholasticism or manualism, but of a particular interpretation of the ideological conflict between it and the nouvelle theologie. We can note here that if Vatican II is a legitimate expression of the Church’s faith, then the Council itself is an implicit condemnation of this idealized way of theologizing. I of course here have in mind the ultraconservative forces who argue in such manners as described above.

The question before us however is whether such is indeed the case, that pastorality is opposed to dogma and whether this “dogmatic” hermeneutic is appropriate. To answer this question, we must first ask another question, namely, what is the meaning of pastorality? The “dogmatic” hermeneutic requires a particular meaning of pastorality in order to conclude that pastorality in fact is opposed to dogma. Is this a legitimate interpretation of Vatican II’s pastorality? Does such a hermeneutic lead us to a grasp of the nature of Vatican II’s pastorality?

This view is certainly a plausible one. When the untrained individual desires to seek out an answer for himself and begins investigating the Second Vatican Council, there are a plethora of books, articles and thinkers who highlight the historical fact that, in general, the post-Vatican II Church drifted away from the Church’s doctrine and a rebellion has begun (I am speaking of course mainly the American and European Churches). While rebellion was fomenting even during the Vatican II years, the catalyst for its explosion was when theologians dissented from the Church was the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, which denied the moral liceity of contraceptives and the questions of the Church’s moral teachings that followed afterwards. This naturally led to a revolt against papal infallibility and Church authority, the doctrines on sin and hell, and the adoption of relativistic ecumenical approaches amongst many more theological crises of the 20th century.

The post-Vatican II Church is a bleeding Church. The German bishops have just recently announced their rebellion against the Church over the problems of transgenderism and same-sex marriage. The rebellion is still alive and widespread. There are fears of schism and the fracturing of the Church. Such fears have given opportunistic conspiracy theorists like Taylor Marshall and his book Infiltration a booming business.[1] The historical development of the Church after Vatican II and the ensuing fierce debates over fundamental truths of the faith is what gives plausibility to the dogmatic hermeneutic, that the “pastoral” Council is opposed to the previous “dogmatic” ones. It hence follows that Vatican II is to be interpreted as a rupture with Catholic Tradition and preconciliar teachings. This “dogmatic” hermeneutic however is really the hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture. Interestingly, this “dogmatic” hermeneutic is found amongst both the “progressive” and “conservative” camps.

The conservative variant we have called the “dogmatic” hermeneutic. The progressive variant can hence be dubbed the “pastoral” hermeneutic in the pejorative meaning of “pastoral” as the conservative critics have rightly ridiculed, for this “pastoral” hermeneutic also accepts the proposition that Vatican II’s pastorality is opposed to dogma. What sets the “pastoral” hermeneutic apart from the “dogmatic” hermeneutics are the two following conclusions.

The exegete of the “pastoral” hermeneutic believes that this rupture is a good thing. The exegete of the “dogmatic” hermeneutic, on the other hand, views this rupture negatively. What sets these two exegetes apart is the prior valuation of either dogma or pastorality. The practitioner of the “pastoral” hermeneutic values pastorality over against dogma, and vice versa for the exegete of the “dogmatic” hermeneutic who favors dogma over pastorality. Due to this difference in valuations, the proponent of the “dogmatic” hermeneutic is dismayed over the situation of the bleeding Church. He is saddened and actively works towards a kind of restoration of Catholicism according to his idealized theological vision of what the Church ought to be.[2] The proponent of the “pastoral” hermeneutic”, on the other hand, approves of this current situation. He himself fans the flames. Not only is the current situation good, but the Church must further pursue this course of action.

Our second conclusion is perhaps ironic in that both hermeneutics perceive dissent and opposition to the Church’s authority as necessary for the preservation of the Church. Both actively dissent from the doctrinal teachings of Vatican II, which is all the more ironic since both are claiming to authentically interpret the Council through their dissent. Such delusions is why Charles Curran can call his memoirs Loyal Dissent. Each exegete in his own way rejects the infallibility of the Church, whether implicitly or explicitly. Each sets up for himself his own theological school that serves as the “true magisterium” possessing authority over the true Magisterium. How else can these exegetes of both hermeneutics claim legitimacy unless they also claim interpretative authority? They will nonetheless argue that truth gives them such authority, but if so, then doesn’t this mean then that the true Magisterium teaches untruths? Does this not mean that the Church herself has failed her Spouse? What both schools desire is to file for divorce. We have digressed enough.

To begin understanding the meaning of Vatican II’s pastorality, we must first investigate what does the Council mean by renewal, for the dynamism of renewal is inseparable from the pastoral nature of the Second Vatican Council.

2.3.1. The Meaning of “Renewal”

The pastoral nature of Vatican II is multidimensional. One dimension is the aspect of renewal. The meaning of “renewal” is inseparable from the dimension of faith, for Vatican II was an authentic exercise of the Church’s own faith for the purpose of renewing her faith in Christ. We could simply quote again the many passages that describe Vatican II as an act of faith, for these passages attest to the fact that the Church’s exercise of faith in Vatican II was a renewal of her own spirituality.[3] As Lumen Gentium states, the dynamism of renewal is always Christ-centered, informed by faith and deepening commitment to that faith.

While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled knew nothing of sin, but came to expiate only the sins of the people, the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, “like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes.” By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light.[4]

This same passage of Lumen Gentium further identifies renewal with the proclamation of the Gospel. The Church of renewal is the Church of proclamation. Through renewing herself, the Church proclaims Christ. She must profess her faith both privately and publicly. The Catholic Church is to “reveal to the world” the glory of Christ. Evangelization and missionary work are hence integral elements of the Church’s faith and renewal.

Another essential element of Vatican II’s renewal is repentance. Man must repent of his sins in order to renew himself. The sacraments of baptism and confession are essential to this task of renewal.[5] This renewal of the Catholic Church moreover is a task for every Catholic. The Church “exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.”[6]

Elsewhere, the Council teaches that “The laity must take up the renewal of the temporal order as their own special obligation.”[7] This renewal in the temporal order is nothing else than the participation in Christ’s own redemptive work.[8] When we recall the various statements of Gaudium et Spes quoted earlier[9] concerning the Council’s address to modernity and man, this renewal of the temporal order is properly called a renewal because it is nothing other than the re-formation of the world according to the truth of the Gospel. This re-formation is achieved through the illumination of the world according to the light of faith.

The churches are being asked to look both backward and forward: back to tradition in all its rich variety, and forward to the signs of the gospel that are hidden in history but are decipherable if we commit ourselves to share in reading them under the sovereign guidance of God’s word and in a fraternal communion of all Christians.[10]

As Paul VI elaborated, Vatican II’s dynamism of renewal is nothing other than the encounter with the Holy Spirit, to probe more deeply and revitalize the Church’s own faith and love for God through a living contact with the Spirit.

The Church has gathered herself together in deep spiritual awareness, not to produce a learned analysis of religious psychology, or an account of her own experiences, not even to devote herself to reaffirming her rights and explaining her laws. Rather, it was to find in herself, active and alive, the Holy Spirit, the word of Christ; and to probe more deeply still the mystery, the plan and the presence of God above and within herself; to revitalize in herself that faith which is the secret of her confidence and of her wisdom, and that love which impels her to sing without ceasing the praises of God.[11]

Therefore, we can conclude that in the mind of Vatican II that the meaning of renewal is unintelligible from faith. As Unitatis Redintegratio stated “Every renewal of the Church is essentially grounded in an increase of fidelity to her own calling.”[12] Renewal separated from the dynamism of faith is a putrefaction unto death. As Dietrich von Hildebrand observed,

Vatican II was a “beginning” only in the sense that every council of the Church has been a beginning: it called for a revivification of souls in the unchanging faith that Christ gave to His Church to safeguard and transmit. It promises not a new Church out of the old, but the same Church ever new.[13]

2.3.2. Dogma and Continuity

The second dimension of Vatican II’s pastorality is the dimension of doctrine. In Part II we have already elaborated in great detail concerning the dogmatic continuity between Vatican II and previous Ecumenical Councils. The documents of Vatican II themselves profess this in addition to every pope from Vatican II to present. We read for example in Dei Verbum:

Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: “We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ”. Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love.[14]

Here the Council expresses her own understanding of the continuity of the Council with previous Ecumenical Councils and Vatican II’s intention to teach new doctrine. This demonstrates that those who hold the opinions that the Church did not teach doctrine at Vatican II or that the teachings of Vatican II are a rupture with previous Councils are both erroneous interpretations given what the conciliar texts themselves state. Gaudium et Spes similarly stated:

This sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in the glory of heaven or who are yet being purified after their death- and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea, of the Council of Florence, and of the Council of Trent. At the same time, in keeping with its pastoral preoccupations, this council urges all concerned to remove or correct any abuses, excesses or defects which may have crept in here or there, and so restore all things that Christ and God be more fully praised.[15]

Similar statements can be found elsewhere such as Dignitatis Humanae,[16] Lumen Gentium,[17] Unitatis Redintegratio,[18] and Sacrosanctum Concilium.[19]

We can hence clearly perceive that in the mind of the Council, the Church understands herself to be teaching on matters of doctrine in continuity and development of Sacred Tradition. I refer to the interested reader Part II of this series for further details.[20]

2.3.3. The Meaning of “Pastoral”

The Council Fathers of Vatican II defined what is meant by pastoral in Gaudium et Spes. We read in the first footnote that:

The Pastoral Constitution "De Ecclesia in Mundo Huius Temporis" is made up of two parts; yet it constitutes an organic unity. By way of explanation: the constitution is called "pastoral" because, while resting on doctrinal principles, it seeks to express the relation of the Church to the world and modern mankind. The result is that, on the one hand, a pastoral slant is present in the first part, and, on the other hand, a doctrinal slant is present in the second part.[21]

In the mind of the Council, the dimensions of pastorality and dogma are inseparable. As Ormund Rush commented, the footnote here describes Gaudium et Spes as “both a pastoral and a doctrinal constitution.”[22] The pastoral aspect of Gaudium et Spes “constitutes an organic unity” with its doctrinal principles. Doctrine informs and shapes our pastoral approach. There can be no real pastoral dialogue without already a foundation of doctrine laid out. It is therefore erroneous to separate the pastorality of Vatican II from doctrine.

The quoted footnote further indicates that the dimension of renewal is to be found within the meaning of pastoral. The dimension of renewal within the Council’s pastorality is inseparable from Vatican II’s address to man and modernity. Vatican II as an act of faith addressed modern man out of faith both to present the truths of man to man and as a renewal of the Church’s own understanding of her faith. This dynamism is properly pastoral. Renewal requires faith. The pastorality of Vatican II requires an identity of faith. As Ratzinger explained it,

Vatican II surely did not want ‘to change’ the faith, but to represent it in a more effective way. Further, I should say that dialogue is possible only on the foundation of a clear identity. One can, one must be ‘open’, but only when one has something to say and has acquired one’s own identity. This is how the Popes and the Council Fathers understood it… But if they thought that they could open themselves with confidence to what is positive in the modern world, it was precisely because they were sure of their identity, of their faith.[23]

The post-Vatican II Magisterium likewise emphasized the multidimensionality of the Council’s pastorality. The 1985 Extraordinary Synod’s Final Report twice stated that the pastoral nature of the Council cannot be licitly separated from doctrine:[24]

The false opposition between doctrinal and pastoral responsibilities must be avoided and overcome. In fact, the true intent of pastoral work consists in actualizing and making concrete the truth of salvation, which is in itself valid for all times. As true pastors, the bishops must point out the right way to the flock, strengthen the faith of the flock, keep dangers away from it.[25]

The synod rightly emphasized that any pastoral work must be first grounded in true doctrine, for doctrine is the map by which we determine the correct path to follow in implementing any pastoral activity. Doctrine informs pastorality and pastorality actualizes doctrine in the daily life of the Church and all believers.

If one separates doctrine from pastorality, then one’s pastoral approach must necessarily fill in this doctrinal gap with another content; for all pastoral activity must present a content, whether it is the content of the faith, i.e. doctrine, or something else. This is the error many progressives made in interpreting Vatican II, for they introduced their own content and opinions opposed to the doctrines of the faith and the teachings of Vatican II itself. It is also an error of the ultraconservatives for by rejecting Vatican II they too must supplement and replace the contents of faith with another content. While the liberals seek refuge in modernism, these ultraconservative thinkers find their refuge in conspiracy theories.

The ultraconservatives view the pastoral nature of the Council in such a manner that whatever doctrinal content contained within Vatican II’s teachings is de-emphasized or dismissed entirely. Doctrinal and pastoral are polar opposites.[26] It is from this perspective that we find statements such as “The Council was pastoral, which meant that it did not declare doctrines and definitions.”[27] Such statements are patently false given that Vatican II explicitly taught several doctrines and definitions, but nevertheless there is a kind of “spirit” that leads ultraconservatives towards such dismissals of the conciliar texts themselves and the Church’s own authority on these matters.

The fundamental error of the ultraconservative position however is perhaps not the disobedience to the legitimate authority of the Magisterium bestowed by God but a fundamental misunderstanding of the Council itself. Edward Schillebeeckx rightly pointed out that in Vatican II

Christianity is again regarded and experienced as a dynamic event, not merely as the sum total of a number of doctrinal points. The so-called pastoral character of this council is nothing but a new dogmatic sensitivity. It would be a fundamental misconception, therefore, to consider this church assembly less doctrinal than earlier ones, just because of its pastoral tendency. Some of those who hold minority views will be making a sad mistake if they accept the final decisions of this council “because it is, afterall, only pastoral”, as if everything were to remain unchanged as far as doctrinal presentation is concerned. I have a feeling that the theologians will undoubtedly be faced with such a post-conciliar interpretation of some of the council decisions.[28]

The Council as an exercise of faith is the dynamic encounter of the Church and her faith with the living God. Such an encounter leads to the development of doctrine, but the dynamism itself cannot be reduced to merely a summation of doctrinal points. The irony is that Schillebeeckx was one of those progressive thinkers who did much to damage the Church, whose views were condemned multiple times by the Magisterium. While Schillebeeckx correctly identified one problematic approach interpreting the Council, he himself failed by committing the same error but in the manner of the progressives.

Karol Wojtyła similarly wrote that

A ‘purely’ doctrinal Council would have concentrated on defining the precise meaning of the truths of the faith, whereas a pastoral Council proclaims, recalls or clarifies truths for the primary purpose of giving Christians a life-style, a way of thinking and acting. In our efforts to put the Council into practice, this is the style we must keep before our minds.[29]

The pastorality of Vatican II is existential. The dynamism Schillebeeckx observed and Wojtyła precisely developed is nothing other than the existential appropriation of the truths of the Catholic faith into our modes of thinking, living, and behaving. We must transform our existence through faith. The implementation of faith into our lives and the way we live and think is properly speaking the pastoral objective of Vatican II in its address to Christians, man and modernity. Vatican II rediscovered the “basic truth that the Church is an institution of ministry, and ministry by definition adapts itself to the condition of those to whom it ministers.”[30]

We often find in ultraconservative circles a dialectical opposition being presented between the pastoral Vatican II and the dogmatic Council of Trent. Those who do so forget that Trent itself was also a pastoral Council. As John O’Malley observed,

In no other area, perhaps, did the Counter Reformation evince greater creativity than in ministry—and in that correlate of good ministry, spirituality. The so-called disciplinary (or ‘reform’) decrees of the Council of Trent can be viewed from a number of different perspectives. Taken singly they strike one today with their juridical vocabulary and their distance from our own mentality. The underlying impulse that pervades them, however, is a reform of ministry.[31]

Some argue that since Vatican II is pastoral, it did not contain or develop doctrine. As mentioned earlier, the texts themselves refute this opinion since the conciliar texts clearly state the intention to develop and teach doctrine in several places.[32] This development or teaching of doctrine is furthermore an enrichment of the Church’s doctrine. As Yves Congar observed:

A pastoral approach is not without doctrine. It is doctrinal, but in a way that is not satisfied with conceptualizations, definitions, deductions and anathemas. It intends to present the truth of salvation in a way which is close to men and women today and which accepts their difficulties and tries to answer their questions. It even does that in a doctrinal form of expression. Vatican II was undoubtedly doctrinal. The fact that it ‘defined’ no new dogmas does not in any way minimize its doctrinal value, according to the description of doctrine given by classical theology, in a differentiated manner, to the documents promulgated by the Council.[33]

As argued in the beginning of this subsection, the content of doctrine and faith is what one preaches. From this simple observation we can outline an argument. The handing on of the deposit of faith is a pastoral activity. The pastorality and doctrinality of Vatican II are inseparable. This dynamism of passing on the faith through preaching requires a renewed presentation of the doctrines of the faith in order to be able to speak to modern man where he is while preserving those truths. The pastorality of Vatican II hence required a development in understanding of the Church’s own doctrines. Doctrine makes pastoral activity intelligible and truthful, and pastorality enriches doctrine. The pastoral activity of the Church is her own striving to more deeply penetrate the truths of her faith. The pastoral activity of the Church is hence an exercise of her own faith. This penetration of truth is nothing other than a deeper encounter with God and the Logos. Therefore, Vatican II in its pastorality must be interpreted according to a hermeneutic of faith that understands the Council as an enrichment of the faith. This argument is that which Karol Wojtyła presented in his book Sources of Renewal.

It may be said that every Council in the Church’s history has been a pastoral one, if only because the assembled bishops, under the Pope’s guidance, are pastors of the Church. At the same time every Council is an act of the supreme magisterium of the Church. Magisterium signifies teaching based on authority, a teaching which is the mission of the Apostles and their successors: it is part of their function and an essential task. This teaching is concerned essentially with questions of faith and morals: what men and women should believe in and in what manner, and hence how they should live according to their faith. The doctrine of faith and morals (doctrina fidei et morum) is the content of the teaching of the pastors of the Church, so that on the one hand doctrinal acts of the magisterium have a pastoral sense, while on the other pastoral acts have a doctrinal significance, deeply rooted as they are in faith and morals. These pastoral acts contain the doctrine that the Church proclaims: they often make it clearer and more precise, striving incessantly to achieve the fulness of the divine truth.

All this has been signally confirmed by Vatican II, which, while preserving its pastoral character and mindful of the purpose for which it was called, profoundly developed the doctrine of faith and thus provided a basis for its enrichment.[34]

Therefore the hermeneutic Wojtyła advances is that the pastorality of Vatican II is to be interpreted as an enrichment of the faith: “Thus it is in the light of the purpose of Vatican II as pre-eminently a pastoral Council that we should consider the postulate of an enrichment of faith as the basis of any realization of the Council and any renewal of the Church.”[35] To summarize Wojtyła’s position: Vatican II is an enrichment of the faith precisely because of its pastorality.

This same style of argument is found in Paul VI’s closing address to the Council. Against those who question the authority of Vatican II due to its pastoral approach, Paul VI stated:

But one thing must be noted here, namely, that the teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements, has made thoroughly known its authoritative teaching on a number of questions which today weigh upon man's conscience and activity, descending, so to speak, into a dialogue with him, but ever preserving its own authority and force; it has spoken with the accommodating friendly voice of pastoral charity; its desire has been to be heard and understood by everyone; it has not merely concentrated on intellectual understanding but has also sought to express itself in simple, up-to-date, conversational style, derived from actual experience and a cordial approach which make it more vital, attractive and persuasive; it has spoken to modern man as he is.[36]

Paul VI is clear here that while Vatican II did not issue extraordinary teachings, i.e. those which are infallible, the Council still exercised her own authority teaching doctrine, (Ecumenical Councils are after all a supreme act of the Magisterium). The voice of the Church’s teaching authority however has a pastoral tone and is addressed not only to the Church, but every human person in the modern world. It is the voice of a teacher intent on instructing the world. The exercise of the teaching office of the Church is in one respect dogmatic, but to understand it strictly as dogmatic is to forget that to teach is to enter into mutual dialogue in the pursuit of truth. The activity of teaching itself is by nature pastoral. As such, Vatican II’s pastoral voice is authoritative precisely because the Church teaches authentic doctrine. This hence makes the Council a pastoral authority. The authoritative teaching of doctrinal content must be proclaimed and lived or it becomes a dead letter, a task Vatican II took up by proposing and proclaiming the Christian doctrines of faith to the entire world, and thereby making Vatican II the greatest act of evangelization of the 20th century by the Catholic Church.

In Vatican II the Catholic Church lived and renewed her faith and expressed that faith to the modern world. This expression of faith to the world itself requires a vivid self-knowledge of the Church’s own identity as a believer in Christ and what a life of faith requires. This means not being afraid but to boldly proclaim to the world the Good News of God’s salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ for Christ is our confidence, and this is precisely the pastorality of Vatican II.

2.3.4. Conclusion

The pastorality of Vatican II cannot be understood separated from the Church’s own faith. This implies several dimensions. Faith requires a faith in a content, namely the truths of revelation revealed by God Himself. Faith is a faith in a Someone, God. Faith is an encounter with the Living God, a spring of renewal. This renewal requires a deeper penetration into one’s own faith and so likewise the content of faith, the doctrines and dogmas. The Church in exercising her supreme authority through an Ecumenical Council exercised her faith by probing deeper into the doctrines of faith to renew herself with the living encounter of God. Hence the pastorality of Vatican II contains the twofold dimensions of doctrine and continuity. This doctrine must be taught in continuity and with authority, for otherwise it is not Christian doctrine. To do such however requires a deeper penetration into those truths, and so such a pursuit is concomitant with that of renewal for both flow from the same exercise of faith. Faith demands to be proclaimed. Vatican II addressed man and modernity, and proclaimed the faith in dialogue. The dynamism of faith in essence possesses the inseparable dimensions of doctrine, authority, renewal, proclamation, and dialogue. It is this living dynamism that we call pastoral. Pastoral means nothing other than the “subordination of every other aspect of the church’s life to the image of Christ as “Good Shepherd.” ”[37]

It is therefore a serious error to dismiss or reject the Council due to its pastorality, for in doing so one is dismissing or rejecting the Church’s own act of faith and the contents of faith she teaches in the Second Vatican Council; and, in rejecting this faith content, the individual rejects his very own faith by rejecting the Church’s faith. He who makes such a dismissal for the sake of doctrine forgets that in the very act of doing so he dismisses the doctrine and very content he desires to preserve! How ironic it is today reading these words of Paul VI during the Council after fifty years of controversy: “The importance of this doctrinal aspect of the Council’s work will be obvious to all. From it the Church can draw an illuminating, uplifting and sanctifying self-knowledge.”[38]


[1] For critical reviews of Infiltration, see Jeff Mirus’ Infiltration: An idiot’s guide to the problems of the Church. URL: And also Kevin Symond’s Review of Dr. Taylor Marshall’s “Infiltration”. This second review describes some of the historical errors in Marshall’s book. URL:

[2] Against this view Joseph Ratzinger stated “If by ‘restoration’ is meant a turning back, no restoration of such kind is possible. The Church moves forward toward the consummation of history, she looks ahead to the Lord who is coming. No, there is no going back, nor is it possible to go back. Hence there is no ‘restoration’ whatsoever in this sense.” The Ratzinger Report, 37.

[3] Cf. “Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: “We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ”.” Dei Verbum 1.

“The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved. She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history. The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Hence under the light of Christ, the image of the unseen God, the firstborn of every creature, the council wishes to speak to all men in order to shed light on the mystery of man and to cooperate in finding the solution to the outstanding problems of our time.” Gaudium et Spes 10.

“The People of God believes that it is led by the Lord's Spirit, Who fills the earth. Motivated by this faith, it labors to decipher authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires in which this People has a part along with other men of our age. For faith throws a new light on everything, manifests God's design for man's total vocation, and thus directs the mind to solutions which are fully human. This council, first of all, wishes to assess in this light those values which are most highly prized today and to relate them to their divine source. Insofar as they stem from endowments conferred by God on man, these values are exceedingly good.” Ibid, 11.

[4] Lumen Gentium 8.

[5] Ad Gentes 8, Presbyterorum Ordinis 5.

[6] Lumen Gentium 15.

[7] Apostolicam actuositatem 7

[8] “Christ's redemptive work, while essentially concerned with the salvation of men, includes also the renewal of the whole temporal order.” Ibid, 5.

[9] Cf. “The People of God believes that it is led by the Lord's Spirit, Who fills the earth. Motivated by this faith, it labors to decipher authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the happenings, needs and desires in which this People has a part along with other men of our age. For faith throws a new light on everything, manifests God's design for man's total vocation, and thus directs the mind to solutions which are fully human. This council, first of all, wishes to assess in this light those values which are most highly prized today and to relate them to their divine source. Insofar as they stem from endowments conferred by God on man, these values are exceedingly good. Yet they are often wrenched from their rightful function by the taint in man's heart, and hence stand in need of purification.” Gaudium et Spes 11.

[10] Giuseppe Alberigo, “The Christian Situation After Vatican II” in The Reception of Vatican II, 18.

[11] Address during the Last General Meeting of the Second Vatican Council.

[12] Unitatis Redintegratio 6.

[13] The Charitable Anathema, 55.

[14] Dei Verbum 1. Emphasis mine.

[15] Gaudium et Spes 51. Emphasis mine. “Taking for granted the dogmatic declarations of Vatican I concerning the Roman Pontiff, we confidently and expectantly look forward to this discussion which shall develop the doctrine of the episcopate, its function and its relationship with Peter.” Paul VI, “The Task” in Council Speeches of Vatican II, 27.

[16] “Over and above all this, the council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society.” Dignitatis Humanae 1.

[17] “Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils.” Lumen Gentium 1.

[18] Unitatis Redintegratio 6 cites Lateran V for its teachings for example.

[19] “Lastly, in faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal right and dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way. The Council also desires that, where necessary, the rites be revised carefully in the light of sound tradition, and that they be given new vigor to meet the circumstances and needs of modern times.” Sacrosanctum Concilium 4.

[20] URL:

[21] Gaudium et Spes, fn1 to the preface.

[22] Vision of Vatican II, 13.

[23] The Ratzinger Report, 35-36.

[24] “It is not licit to separate the pastoral character from the doctrinal vigor of the documents.” Final Report, I.5. URL:

[25] Ibid, II,B,1.

[26] Cf. Vatican II: The Real Achievement, 84.

[27] Kenneth Dobbs, Vatican II Cannot Be Separated from Its ‘Spirit’. URL:

[28] Vatican II: The Real Achievement, 14-15.

[29] Sources of Renewal, 18.

[30] John O’Malley, Tradition and Transition: Historical Perspectives on Vatican II, 36.

[31] Ibid, 38.

[32] Cf. “To this end, it searches into the sacred tradition and doctrine of the Church-the treasury out of which the Church continually brings forth new things that are in harmony with the things that are old.” Dignitatis Humanae 1.

“Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ. Over and above all this, the council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society.” Ibid, 1.

“Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils.” Lumen Gentium 1.

“Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on...” Dei Verbum 1.

“Therefore, by presenting certain key points of Church doctrine in a clearer light, this sacred synod wishes to offer guidance and support to those Christians and other men who are trying to preserve the holiness and to foster the natural dignity of the married state and its superlative value.” Gaudium et Spes 47.

[33] “A Last Look at the Council” in Vatican II by Those Who were There, ed. Alberic Stacpoole, 347.

[34] Sources of Renewal, 16-17.

[35] Ibid, 16.

[36] Address during the last General Meeting of the Second Vatican Council. URL: Emphasis mine.

[37] Alberigo, History of Vatican II, vol 1, 503.

[38] “The Task” in Council Speeches of Vatican II, 28.

Hermeneutics of Vatican II

A Case Study: The Bad Fruits of Vatican II

Part I: Gift of the Holy Spirit

Part II.1: The Hermeneutic of Continuity

Part II.2: The Hermeneutic of Discontinuity

Part II.3: The Theological Notes and the Hermeneutic of Continuity

Part II.4: Is Vatican II an Ecumenical Council?

Part II.5: The Problem of Dissent

Part II.6: A Concluding Argument

Part III.1: Vatican II and Faith

Part III.2.1: Vatican II as a Study of Man

Part III.2.2: The Hermeneutic of Dialogue

Part III.2.3: The Hermeneutic of Pastoral

Part III.2.4: The Hermeneutic of Aggiornamento

Part III.2.5: The Hermeneutic of Ad Intra and Ad Extra

Part III.2.6: The Spirit of Vatican II

Part III.2.7: The False Hermeneutic of Ambiguity

Part III.3: The Hermeneutic of Suspicion

Part IV: Textual Hermeneutics

Part V: The Theological Priority of the Dogmatic Constitutions

Festenburger Frauenhimmel by Johann Cyriak Hackhofer 
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