Hermeneutics of Vatican II
Part II.6: Concluding Argument Concerning Vatican II’s Authority, Followed by the Bibliography
By Jeremy Hausotter
Jan. 30, 2022
Table of Contents
6. Concluding Argument Concerning Vatican II’s Authority
To the reader of this article, it is recommended that you read the previous articles in this series, Part II.1 through Part II.5, as these are presupposed for the following argument.
6. Concluding Argument Concerning Vatican II’s Authority
We have previously discussed the distinction between the primary and secondary objects of infallibility in Part II.3. Secondary objects of infallibility comprises of those elements contained virtually within the deposit of faith, which includes objects such as the canonization of saints and several moral prohibitions based on natural law such as fornication, prostitution, and euthanasia. These teachings are irreformable, irrevocable, and require an assent of faith. We called this category of teachings fides ecclesiastica.
Now, one object within the category of fides ecclesiastica teachings is the legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils. The CDF its Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei included the legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils as an example of this category. Similarly, the pre-conciliar Sacrae Theologiae Summa likewise included the legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils as an element of this category.
The reason for this inclusion is that the faith cannot be preserved without upholding the legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils themselves. If an Ecumenical Council is to be able to pronounce infallible teachings, then this requires an irrevocable character concerning its legitimacy. The irreformability of a Council’s legitimacy is a definitive proposition. These are historical truths, which while not direct revelation, are infallibility taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. Furthermore, the legitimacy of an Ecumenical Council logically follows from the indefectibility of the Church herself.
We can hence formulate the following arguments.
1) All teachings of fides ecclesiastica are infallible.
2) One teaching within this collection is the legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils.
3) The legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils are hence infallible, and to question one of them invokes the censure error in fides ecclesiastica.
In defense of (1), the CDF and 1983 Code of Canon Law both affirm the irreformability and irrevocableness of fides ecclesiastica teachings. We have examined this in Part II.3. Our statements above, likewise by the CDF, defend (2). And so, one cannot escape the conclusion concerning the legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils as a definitive dogmatic fact. Objecting to the legitimacy of an Ecumenical Council hence falls under the ecclesiastical censure of error in fides ecclesiastica.
1) The legitimacy of Ecumenical Councils are infallible propositions.
2) Vatican II is a legitimate Ecumenical Council.
3) Therefore, the legitimacy of Vatican II is an infallible teaching.
(1) is the conclusion from Argument 1. We have defended (2) in Part II.4, which was strictly dedicated to this question concerning the legitimacy of Vatican II according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (which was in effect at the time of the Council). It therefore follows that one cannot question Vatican II without risking the censure of error in fides ecclesiastica; for the legitimacy of Vatican II is an element of fides ecclesiastica, that is, contained virtually in the deposit of faith and a secondary object of infallibility.
The danger in questioning an Ecumenical Council is serious, for it necessarily involves an assent of faith. We have discussed previously in Part II.3 that the type of assent required by fides ecclesiastica is a faith in the Church. Our faith in the Church given with this type of assent is required, given that God gave the Magisterium teaching authority over the Church and the Holy Spirit assists the Church. Questioning the legitimacy of an Ecumenical Council necessarily leads to a questioning of the Church’s authority and of the Holy Spirit’s role. It is hence with great danger if one chooses to do so, for it will ultimately be a question concerning his or her faith in the True Church of God.
 “With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations.” Doctrinal Commentary on the Professio Fidei 11
 Joachim Salaverri, “On the Church of Christ” in Sacrae Theologiae Summa, vol. 1B, 261.
1985 Extraordinary Synod. “1985 Extraordinary Synod Final Report.” Le Nouvel Esprit. Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.lenouvelesprit.com/church-documents-on-vatican-ii/1985-synod.
Alberigo, Giuseppe, Jean Pierre Jossua, and Joseph A. Komonchak. The Reception of Vatican II. Catholic University of America Press, 1987.
Alberigo, Giuseppe, and Joseph A. Komonchak. History of Vatican II. Orbis Books, 1995.
Beal, John P., James A. Coriden, and Thomas Joseph Green. New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. Paulist Press, 2000.
Edward N. Peters, ed. The 1917 Or Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law: In English Translation with Extensive Scholarly Apparatus. Ignatius Press, 2001.
Claren, Claudia, ed. The Papal Encyclicals: 1939-1958. Pierian Press, 1990.
Congar, Yves, M. Cecily Boulding, and Denis Minns. My Journal of the Council. Liturgical Press, 2012.
Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. “Circular Letter to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences Regarding Some Sentences and Errors Arising from the Interpretation of the Decrees of the Second Vatican Council, 24 July 1966.” Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19660724_epistula_en.html.
———. “Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei.” Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_1998_professio-fidei_en.html.
———. “Donum Veritatis: Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of Theologian.” Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19900524_theologian-vocation_en.html.
———. “Professio Fidei.” Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_1998_professio-fidei_en.html.
Dulles, Avery. Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith. Sapienta Press, 2007.
John Paul II. “Address to the Conference Studying the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council.” Last modified February 27, 2000. Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/2000/jan-mar/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20000227_vatican-council-ii.html.
John XXIII. “January 25, 1959: Pope John XXIII Stuns the World with the Announcement of a II Vatican Council – Papal Artifacts.” Papal Artifacts. Last modified January 25, 1959. Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.papalartifacts.com/january-25-1959-pope-john-xxiii-stuns-the-world/.
Lamb, Matthew L, and Matthew Levering. Vatican II: Renewal within Tradition. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Levering, Matthew. The Reception of Vatican II. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Marchetto, Agostino, and Kenneth D. Whitehead. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: A Counterpoint for the History of the Council. University of Scranton Press, 2010.
Messori, Vittorio, and Benedict XVI. The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church. Ignatius Press, 1985.
O’Malley, John W. What Happened at Vatican II. Harvard University Press, 2010.
Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Translated by Patrick Lynch. Refuge of Sinners Publishing, 2013.
Paul VI. “Concluding Decree ‘In Spiritu Sancto’ of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (December 8, 1965).” Last modified December 8, 1965. Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_letters/documents/hf_p-vi_apl_19651208_in-spiritu-sancto.html.
———. “Ecclesiam Suam (August 6, 1964).” Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_06081964_ecclesiam.html.
Pesch, Otto Hermann. Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Vorgeschichte - Verlauf - Ergebnisse - Wirkungsgeschichte. Topos, Verlagsgem, 2011.
Ratzinger, Cardinal Joseph. The Nature and Mission of Theology. Ignatius Press, 2016.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Theological Highlights of Vatican II. Paulist Press, 1966.
Rush, Ormond. Still Interpreting Vatican II: Some Hermeneutical Principles. Paulist Press, 2004.
Schreck, Alan. Vatican II: The Crisis and the Promise. Servant Books, 2005.
Stacpoole, Alberic. Vatican II: By Those Who Were There. Burns & Oates, 1986.
Thompson, Daniel Speed. The Language of Dissent: Edward Schillebeeckx on the Crisis of Authority in the Catholic Church. University of Notre Dame Press, 2003.
Weigel, George. Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. Harper Collins, 2005.
“Addresses of Benedict XVI on Vatican II.” Le Nouvel Esprit. Accessed December 25, 2021. https://www.lenouvelesprit.com/church-docs-on-vatican-ii/benxvi-addresses.
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The Documents of Vatican II in a New and Definitive Translation: With Commentaries and Notes by Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Authorities, Walter M. Abbott, General Editor. American Press, 1966.
Hermeneutics of Vatican II Articles
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