Saturday, March 2, 2013


Sobering words from the catechism of Saint Pius X:

Q.  Who is the Pope?
A.  The Pope, who is also called the Sovereign Pontiff or the Roman Pontiff is the successor of St Peter in the See of Rome, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and visible Head of the Church.

Q.  Why is the Roman Pontiff the Visible Head of the Church?
A.  The Roman Pontiff is the visible Head of the Church because he visibly governs her with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, who is her invisible Head.

Q  What is the dignity of the Pope?
A.  The dignity of the Pope is the greatest of all dignities on earth, and gives him supreme and immediate power over all and each of the pastors and the faithful. 

Sobering words indeed.  Those words were for all intents and purposes abandoned in the years 1962-1965.

In the most recent issue of Anthony Fraser's Apropos from Scotland (#30/31, Feast of the Purification) there appears an incisive commentary by French Catholic intellectual and journalist Arnaud de Lassus entitled "Aide-Memoire on Vatican II", being an English translation by Mr Fraser of the article which first appeared in Action Familiale et Scolaire, No 221, June 2012, from which the above quotation from the catechism comes.  It is an important overview of Vatican Council II, the 50th anniversary of its beginning which would be the subject of much discussion in the months that followed.

It was not an altogether encouraging assessment of that gathering.

The author, with much clarity of thought, guides us through firstly the chronology of Vatican II, its history, the status of its documents and their characteristics, its opening to the world (with a concomitant closing to the supernatural) and finally a judgment of the Council itself.  In that overview de Lassus dissects what he calls the Conciliar trilogy: religious liberty, Collegiality and Ecumenism.  I will reflect in this post only on the second part of that "trilogy", Collegiality, but will at the same time encourage my readers to write for a copy of this issue of Apropos.  Put simply, what the author is saying is that Vatican II's teaching on collegiality was a fundamental break with the history and tradition of Christ's Church, changing it from a Divinely instituted Monarchy to nothing more than a mere aristocracy.

The document that formulated this change was, of course, Lumen Gentium.  It intended to give to the Bishops in union with the Pope a singular power that they have never possessed, infallibility.  Using this newly-created phantom power some Bishops have ridden roughshod over the Catholics in their individual dioceses and over nearly every traditional Catholic practice of twenty centuries. By signing on to this notion recent Popes have essentially emasculated themselves when it comes to firm Church government. 

The traditional doctrine of papal infallibility states that the Pope alone enjoys the charism of infallibility when defining a matter of faith and morals to be held by the whole Church.  He does not require the consent of the world's Bishops when exercising this power.  He can include them if he wishes to, but he does not need to for the dogma to be ratified by Heaven.  The First Vatican Council in its constitution Pastor Aeternus states that infallibility is "the prerogative that the Only begotten Son of God deigned to enjoin to the highest pastoral office."  The highest pastoral office is that of the Papacy, and that alone.  "There is in the Church a single supreme authority, that of the Pope", writes de Lassus.

But Lumen Gentium attempts to change all that.  This Conciliar text would have two supreme authorities in the Church: the Pope acting alone, and the Episcopal College acting with its head.  Thus has aristocracy entered into and undermined the most sacred Monarchy upon the earth.  For the Vatican II fathers the Pope is only President of the College of Cardinals, a sort of Queen Elizabeth acting as the figurehead of Parliament.  Says de Lassus:

     "Collegiality thus understood introduced, into the government of the Church, a form of 
     aristocracy to replace the Pontifical monarchy."

Small wonder that Modernists like Yves Congar could say, "The Church has peacefully had its October Revolution". That this revolutionary idea has become the norm we have the recent example of writers and commentators referring to Pope Benedict's recent surprising decision as a "resignation".  In reality it is nothing of the kind; it is an abdication, a renunciation of the See of Peter, and of far more serious portent that that of a CEO or a mere President resigning his office.  Some perceptive writers have pointed out that Benedict's shocking move called into question the sacredness of his Office.  And so it has.  But for those who have drunk deeply of Vatican II thinking this crucial point was not noticed.  Also unnoticed is the misplaced faith in the general run of Bishops that many Catholics now have, thanks to VII's fateful Lumen Gentium.

This is what spurred writers like de Mattei and others recently to implore Benedict not to abdicate.

Did the Holy Father, himself a notable mover and shaker at the Council, fall victim of this new idea of collegiality which brought him to make such a momentous decision?  Was he himself believing that he was no more than a figurehead able to resign whenever he felt he had had enough?

Collegiality has bred a certain arrogance, so it would seem, among many Bishops.  Note their defiance and/or ignoring of Humanae Vitae and more recently Summorum Pontificum.  It has bred a callousness, a hardening of the heart which primes them to ignore the pleadings of the faithful to bring their diocese into order, to put a stop to liturgical abominations, to rein in heretic priests, nuns and Catholic colleges.  It breeds men like Donald Wuerl who believe they have the authority to publicly humiliate a good priest for refusing to give the Sacred Species to a public sinner, and it breeds men like Joesph Bernardin, Rembert Weakland and Roger Mahony.  These men have become their own popes while the only Authentic Pope has often tragically let them get away with murder, sometimes literally.

The primacy of Peter was the object of the attack.  Lumen Gentium provided the means by which that attack proceeded.

Cardinal Siri sums up these issues rather succinctly:

     "There was no doubt that some came to the Council with the intention of directing the
     Church towards Protestantism, without Tradition (e.g. Scripture alone) and without
     the primacy of the Pope.  Regarding their first aim they created no little confusion;
     as for their second aim they tried to advance the argument for collegiality."
     [La Giovinezza della Chiesa, Pisa 1983, page 205.]

The other two prongs of that "trilogy" are well described by de Lassus in this article and I cannot recommend a reading of it highly enough.  But returning to that second prong, how Vatican Council II called into question the very primacy of the Pope with its idea of "collegiality" is something that is of such vital importance to the Church of Christ, outside of which there is no salvation, that it cannot be ignored by either the clergy or the laity without doing even more serious damage to an already bleeding Church.

Arnaud de Lassus sees quite clearly that for the Church to return to any kind of normalcy these three Conciliar concepts, that of religious liberty, collegiality and ecumenism, are going to have to be authoritatively, and infallibly, tackled by a Pope sometime very soon.

Our author, Arnaud de Lassus, closes with this quote:  "Not to resist error is to approve it, and the truth is oppressed when it is defended feebly." (Pope Innocent III)

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