Vatican II and the Liberal Tactic to Marginalize Tradition

512px-Second_Vatican_Council_by_Lothar_Wolleh_004

Vatican II (source)

Many theologians today, such as Fr. Aidan Nichols, insist that the documents of the 2nd Vatican Council are to be read with the primary criterion of the perennial Catholic tradition, otherwise known as Fr. Ratzinger’s Hermeneutic of Continuity. In other words, the premise here is that the orthodoxy of the Council’s documents are to be granted, provided they are read in a manner which is consistent with the Church’s magisterial tradition. However, as we are told that the Church welcomes open speech and invitations to dialogue, I’d like to put this under the limelight of investigation. Since ambiguity is the disease infecting our theologians today, I wish to be clear: What I am investigating here is whether the content of the Vatican II documents themselves provide sufficient precedent for what many today are calling aberrations to the Catholic faith.

One of the largest injuries to the Catholic faith that came with Vatican II is the idea jettisoning the all-or-nothing attribute [1] of acceptable worship through which man thrives in a fruitful relationship with God. Prior to the 2nd Vatican Council, for example, the prohibition of sharing in sacred/divine things, i.e. communicatio in sacris, forbade non-Catholics from ever partaking of the holy chalice of salvation together with Catholics, because said chalice is the chief symbol of unity. How can one partake in the same cup of eternal salvation if they diverge in faith, moral practice, and ecclesiastical government? As anyone familiar with the Patristic conception of worship, the ancients understood the singularity of the bishop, the altar, the episcopal chair, the priesthood, and the oneness of our Lord to be absolutely incompatible with a mish-mash association of different altars, priesthoods, episcopal chairs, faiths, etc,etc.

And yet, beginning with Orientalium Ecclesiarium (paragraphs 24-29), the Catholic Church officially gave up this rule on behalf of the Oriental churches and the Protestants. In the case of the former, members of the separated Eastern churches are allowed to come to our liturgies and freely partake in the Lord’s cup, provided they are free of mortal sin (the same condition for all Catholics), c.f. Code of Canon Law 844. Full stop.

Let’s think about this.

That means the 2nd Vatican Council already absorbed the practice of allowing people who have a different faith than Catholics to partake in the one cup of eternal salvation. The Persian-Nestorian churches rejected the Council of Ephesus (431). The Egyptian-Syriac oriental orthodox churches rejected Chalcedon, and believe Pope St. Leo’s tome to be inconsistent with the dogmatic miaphysitism of St. Cyril of Alexandria. The Chalcedonian-Byzantine Orthodox Church rejects the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (as from one), the absolute indissolubility of the matrimonial union, the universal jurisdiction of the successor of Peter, and his infallibility. They also reject the theology of indulgences, the use of unleavened bread, the words of institution as being the cause of change in the bread and wine, and a variety of other matters. There are divergences between the Eastern churches themselves on matters of faith. The point is clear enough: these Eastern churches who are separated from Roman communion diverge from Catholics in faith, morals, and ecclesiastical government. And yet, unto this very day, they can stand in line to receive communion…..without being required to renounce their errors and subscribe to Catholic faith [2].

The same has been extended to Protestants (c.f. CCL 844.1-2), albeit with stricter conditions.

Although this doesn’t gain much attention, the above shows that the Catholic Church has already given up its 2,000 year old understanding of the all or nothing nature of acceptable worship. Sure, Cornelius’s prayers were heard and his alms-giving accepted by God (Acts 9), but he was thereafter commanded to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, for God was then and is now commanding this for all men (Acts 17:30), “for He has appointed a day on which He will judge the living and the dead”. Sure, Catechumen’s have the “desire” for the baptismal sanctification, and therefore can be considered accepted if they were to pass away before reaching the physical water. Sure, per Pius IX, it is possible, however unlikely, for a pagan who labors with invincible ignorance to seek God in a way best known to him or her, and exercise (by grace) the virtues requisite for eternal life. However, none of these exceptions ever motivated the pastors of Christ’s holy Church to make a programmatic discipline off the basis of these *special circumstances*. It was always believed that when a person can sufficiently understand the gospel, he/she is required to give it the due respect of single-minded devotion and undiluted service. Practically, what that means is when and if a Cornelius were to come to know the command of the gospel through its preaching, he is, then and there, bound to submit and obey at the risk of hellfire. The same goes for the Catechumen who refuses baptism after being capable of reaching the font, or the pagan who comes into contact with an evangelist. [3]

But what we have introduced at the 2nd Vatican Council appears to be a different animal. We have purposefully brought the dynamic of the above exceptional circumstances into premeditated disciplinary practice, whereby we can endorse the common participation of the Lord’s cup of salvation among people who are knowingly out-of-line with the demands of the gospel. Furthermore, the current rule of administering the Eucharist to members of the separated Eastern churches strictly forbids “proselytism”, i.e. telling them they must become Catholic and subscribe to Catholic doctrine for their eternal salvation. One might be able to say that the conditions for administering the Eucharist to Protestants is one of extremis, and in observance to the higher rule of the salvation of souls (where and when scandal is avoidable). However, such a rule is impossible for the separated Eastern churches for whom it is not an exceptional issue, but an open-door policy.

Why do I labor on this ? Because when we look at what came after the Council, such as the Assisi prayer event, the abuse of communication in sacris, the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, and the current methodology of the Vatican…..this is just a further degree of the same kind of divergence from a pre-Vatican II understanding of acceptable and salvific worship. If it is the case that someone (i.e. the Oriental christian) can reject Catholic dogma, and therefore what God requires all to assent to with divine and Catholic faith, and still be acceptable for the Eucharistic chalice, then the all-or-nothing concept has already been withdrawn, and in its place a mish-mash of degrees of acceptability vs. unacceptability are entered into the analysis [4].

Add to this the idea that the creation has a participation in God, and therefore everything that is true, good, and beautiful in all the various world religions have a varying degree of conformity to that one truth, goodness, and beauty. On the basis of this construction, then, there is a door of opportunity for doing something never before deemed acceptable or harmonious with the faith, namely, syncretistic participation on those lines of partial participation. So now entering into a Mosque or a Jewish Synagogue, or a Protestant service, or an Eastern/Oriental orthodox service, and partaking of the prayers and cult of said religion, is deemed acceptable because there is this partial communion that exists on those points of convergence between Catholics and non-Catholics with the one true, good, and beauty. Furthermore, scandal of faith and the error of indifferentism are thought to be avoided by the interior intentions.

Now, while the concept underlying holds as a Patristic idea (c.f. Maximus the Confessor, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc,etc), none of the Patristic men thereby understood the possibility of premeditated communicatio in divinis or sacris with the various religions or heretical/schismatic societies.

Is it not the case that, since Vatican II, the Catholic Church now allows it?

If so, the very fabric of Amoris Laetitia (the possibility of being acceptable to God in worship even though not fulfilling his commands/demands) was already absorbed into the thinking and praxis of Catholic bishops with the Vatican Council, particularly with the issue of sharing the Eucharist with non-Catholics. It is a ceasing from the *black-and-white* (which, admittedly, has to be done sometimes) and an overhaul of *blurry grey* into the normative economy of the pastorate. This permits the new theologians to be able to check-mark Denzinger and all of Catholic dogma, giving it a two-thumbs up with a smile from ear-to-ear, while then moving their intellectual tools to the vast complexity of the human psyche, where the dynamism of conscience and psychology permit for the sort of ample differentiation that can permit a justification for things like Amoris Laetitia, a theoretically legitimate communicatio in sacris, etc,etc.

It is actually a pretty genius move.

Consider a guy like Fr. James Martin. Here is a guy who can write the article “What is the official church teaching on homosexuality? Responding to a commonly asked question” published in America Magazine (April 30, 2018), which explicitly endorses the Church’s teaching on the subject of homosexual activity and holy matrimony, and yet he can submit such a paper and still go off and scandalize the world by shifting all his tools to work in the realm of “accompaniment” which, again, does not deny the requirement of repentance, but now the meaning of repentance is filtered through the vast complexity of the dynamism I spoke about above, e.g. conscience, culpability, emotions, stress, pressure, complex circumstances of life, etc,etc. The same dynamism is involved in the minds of those clerics who have publicly endorsed the possibility of allowing gay-persons who are active in their relationship, to receive communion, or even that the Church can sanction certain “blessings” for same-sex couples. This came up in one of the pre-synod documents before the Synod on the Family (held in 2014/15) where clerics were speculating on the “gifts” that same-sex couples can offer to the Church, since there are “elements of goodness” even in these relationships. Even a self-acclaimed conservative cleric, Bishop Robert Barron, echos this dynamism in a video on Youtube entitled “Bishop Barron on Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia” with this explanation: “he [Francis] got this from John Paul II, where the Pope calls the ‘law of gradualism’….Again, this is not the gradualism of the law. It’s important. It’s the law of gradualism, meaning, people tend to move toward the ideal not all at once but in steady gradual steps. Might we even recognize someone who is in a ‘irregular situation’ in terms of their sexual expression, if there are ‘elements’ of that relationship which are nevertheless good, there are certain ‘dimensions’ of it which are praiseworthy ? Yeah. And can we build on that pastorally? [Yes]“. Barron goes on to explicate the other component of the distinction between “objective evil” and “subjective responsibility”.

The genius of this is that the liberals know that tradition-loving Catholics cannot deny the existence of these principles. You simply cannot deny that the complexity of the human psyche has the potential for all sorts of differentiation that can make for someone’s being in an objectively disordered situation (i.e. contravening God’s will) and yet be subjectively inculpable for it. Consider the extreme situation of a woman who is forced to engage in sexual intercourse on pain of death. That is an objectively disordered situation, but she is without sin because, subjectively, her consent is absent. Something more closer to the subject here might be a Catholic who misses attending Mass one Sunday because he had never been taught it as obligatory. He may have neglected to study this out for himself, in which case he gains some culpability, but certainly not the sufficient amount to make for a deadly sin. There are all sorts of psychological complexities which can mitigate against culpability, and the examples would abound far beyond the time allowed for this article. But I think the basic idea is sufficiently communicated.

The liberals today, therefore, speculate on the possibilities of objectively disordered situations and irregular relationships being anywhere between (1) less than deadly (mortal sin) and (2) reaching a level where it can actually please God. They hone in one the elastic puddy of the human psyche and its varied conditions in order to construct complex scenarios where what was always understood as simply wrong and unacceptable can now be deemed , in special cases, acceptable or even good.

Here is where the demonic has found new ways to infiltrate into the Lord’s church. The modernists could not longer overtly deny doctrine and be thought in good standing with the Church since it had received formal condemnation by the Church. So by moving their intellectual tools to the domain of the differential potency existing in the human psyche , they have found a way to agree to the immovable foundations of doctrine while shifting to a place where variations can be allowed.

The conservatives cannot retort and say, “Well, its impossible for the psyche to find itself in such oddities so as to make fornication blameless!”, because theologians have always known of the vast complexity which might allow for this. One perfect example would be a couple who get married in the Catholic Church, but one of the spouses, let’s say the bride, intends to never have children, but keeps it to herself. This is an impediment to a valid marriage, and so despite the groom being under the impression it is a valid marriage, their ensuing marital intercourse in the marriage bed is objectively fornication, since it is not within the confines of a valid, much less sacramental, marriage. The ignorance of the groom allows for his objective fornication to be be blameless, and he could even incur merit during this process through good works performed in the Holy Spirit. So the dynamism involves is complex, and to deny that the human psyche has such potential is simply akin to denying gravity. It doesn’t matter how much two traditional moral theologians are sitting in a room and who pound the table with the Church’s dogmatic tradition, a liberal can always come in and say, “Ah yes, of course. but there is of course, the possibility of a very complex situation whose scenario goes like xyz”. And this is not situation-ethics, mind you.

In any case, my point here is that with the 2nd Vatican Council’s vision of ecumenical activity, its relaxation of the policy on Eucharistic communion, and its emphasizing the partial communion and/or conformity with the good, true, and beautiful which exists in all the variegated religions of the world, there seems to be ample precedent for the sort of rationality which grounds the logic of the Assisi Prayer meetings in 1986 and 2002, inter-religious prayer services, communicatio in sacris, Amoris Laetitia, and even the proposals today being offered about the possibility of “gifts” being offered to the Church by same-sex couples. As to whether this is heresy or not, I have no intention to say so in this article. But I certainly wish to open the question as to whether, per Fr. Nichols and Fr. Ratzinger, the documents of the 2nd Vatican Council themselves provide the precedent we see going on today.

The most difficult part of all of this is just how we can get rid of it? We can tighten down on the practical common sense that the Church has always had in retaining strict disciplines, but is there a doctrine of the Church which these liberals are violating? I can’t seem to put my finger on it. If any of my readers can become aware, please give me the courtesy of illuminating me. And I don’t, by any means, intend to say here that the liberal clerics today who push for what I’ve been describing are not seriously destroying the Church of God since their aberration might exist on another plane than doctrine. All we hear from these clerics are that they are not changing Church doctrine, nor that challenge divine law. Ever since Orientalium Ecclesiarium, we are told that we can somehow open the Chalice to persons who wish not to become Catholic in either faith, morals, nor ecclesiastical cult, and yet still avoid committing scandal. How does that work? How is indifferentism not automatically effected. The same is urged by Amoris Laetitia. Some Catholics have tried to salvage the Church from destruction since what I’ve described might be categorized on the shelf labeled “imprudence”, but let’s not play games here. It was imprudence that occurred when Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire on God’s altar (Lev 10:1-2), and were struck dead for doing so. It was imprudence that occurred when Uzzah touched the Ark of God, and was struck dead by the angry Lord of Israel (2 Sam 6:7). Far be it from us to think that simply because this may fall into the category of imprudence that souls are being spared thereby from destruction.


[1] It is important that the reader understand that by “all-or-nothing”, I don’t mean that God either takes perfect sanctity or he takes nothing at all. I am not working with that sort of zero-sum game. But at the same time, there is an all-or-nothing concept, c.f. the Lord’s analogy of being either hot, cold, or neither, lukewarm

[2] Now, lest the reader think I am hear bashing the Eastern churches, let me be absolutely clear. If anything, I the opposite is in effect. I admire the closed communion policy that the Eastern churches have (for the most part anyhow, c.f. Archbishop Hilarion’s comments on the possibility of Catholics receiving from the Orthodox chalice as well as the Statement of the Orthodox Church of Antioch on Relations between the Eastern and Syrian Orthodox Churches; and then see Metropolitan Ierotheos of Nafpaktos’s critique of Moscow) and would endorse that over the current policy of Catholicism, not so as to forbid people from being able to receive the Lord, but more importantly to retain the public nature of the Church’s oneness.

[3] Fast forward to our present circumstances, and Pope Francis envisions the possibility of atheists being saved.

[4] Again, there are always degrees in our growth in holiness, and we always, until the end, have a mix of good and bad. However, the idea is that someone needs to have the full purpose to amend one’s life and conform to all of God’s demands as a sin qua non to qualify for Eucharistic communion. The person who is picking and choosing what to oey and what not to obey does not have this qualifying disposition.

12 thoughts on “Vatican II and the Liberal Tactic to Marginalize Tradition

  1. You explain this so well even I can understand the enormity … I promise to pray and bring it before the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord, to take care of … Thank you, Eric❗️

  2. A bit off-topic, but a question I wanted to ask. Regarding Pope St. Leo’s statement that:

    …Indeed resolutions of bishops which are repugnant to the rules of the holy canons composed at Nicaea, in conjunction with the loyalty of your faith, we dismiss as invalid, and by the authority of Peter, the blessed Apostle, we absolutely disannul by a general decree in all ecclesiastical cases…

    Some Eastern Orthodox interpret this merely as Pope Leo being given the right to annull a canon by the council itself, and so not by any authority of the Pope himself. But what goes unnoticed is the fact that Pope Leo is appealing to the authority of Peter specifically to disannul the canon. This means that something called “the authority of Peter” was already associated with the See of Rome and the Pope there – already very interesting on it’s own terms. But the most crucial part is how the authority of Peter is appealed to annul a canon – not the authority bestowed on the Pope by the Council, or the authority of Pope as a mere bishop, but rather the authority of the Apostle Peter for some reason.

    This right there is one of the most obvious proofs of the existence of an unique Petrine authority associated with Rome, and that the authority was even exercised in the case of Councils.

    What do you think?

    • I might point out that in the italicized excerpt from Pope Leo’s Epistle 105 of 22 May 452 to the Empress Pulcheria translates two significant Latin phrases thus:

      1. “we dismiss as invalid” for in irritum mittimus which might better be translated as “we make void;” and

      2. “we absolutely we disannul by a general decree” for generali prorsus definitione cassamus which might more clearly be translated as “we wholly nullify by a general decree” (or “we veto utterly by a general decree”).

      The phrase which follows, “in all ecclesiastical cases” should attach to what succeeds the excerpt, that is, “in all ecclesiastical causes following those laws which the Holy Spirit laid down through the 318 prelates for the peaceful obedience of all priests,” referencing the 318 Fathers of the Council of Nicaea.

      So, to John’s final question, “What do you think?,” I can only respond, “I agree with you.”

  3. This insightful article points out the enormity of the challenge that confronts traditional Catholics. I believe you briefly introduced these ideas on a recent R&T video-cast. Thank you for developing your thoughts more fully.

  4. If all this is true, in what sense can we say the Church still retains indefectibility? It seems the entire Magisterium has committed itself to teaching error on matters of faith and morals.

  5. Do you believe it is left to the Church’s magisterium to determine who may or may not suitably partake of the sacraments? The current code you linked to still requires a manifestation of Catholic faith in regards to each of the sacraments.

    Furthermore, I think the Church is quite right in avoiding proselytism, insofar as that often results in a clericalist and even pharisaical attitude among believers when attempting to evangelize. It becomes divisive and disputative – a form of contest; whereas, the gospel truth attracts of its own accord and draws us into unity.

    If someone does not think the Church’s magisterium is the final, authoritative and competent authority in regards to adminitering and receiving the sacraments, then who is and why? I could see Catholics making arguments for or against certain practices from a practical or pastoral POV, but the second we start to question the legitimacy and authority if the Church’s Magisterium in these matters, then I think schism or heresy eventually must become inevitable and even more separation or disunion among Christians.

  6. If thr Orthodox Byzantines do not accept the Catholic understanding of the Words of Consecration and Transubstantiation, and since the Code of Canon Law you linked to requires manifestation of Catholic faith in regards to each of the sacraments, then how could an Orthodox Byzantine Christian receive a Catholic Eucharist licitly? Indeed, even the Catholic understanding of absolution is directly connected to the Catholic faith and believe about the Papacy and the power of the keys.

    I don’t doubt that perhaps in many cases the norms of canon law are not being followed or violated but perhaps in some cases there are special exceptions granted by the Holy See that rectify any issues with standing canon law. But ultimately the Pope has been given the plenitude of sacred authority and powers in the exercise of the keys, so it’s difficult to take issue about a Pope approving norms for receiving the sacraments – it seems well within a Pope’s and the Church’s right, competence and proper authority and jurisdiction.

  7. Pingback: Bishop Robert Barron, Nouvelle théologie, Ressourcement, Communio, and What’s Really Going on | Erick Ybarra

  8. (1) To properly disposed does not mean simply to be in a state of grace as it pertains to Eastern schismatics. According to Fr. Antoine Al-Ahmar

    “the proper disposition does not refer only to contrition or to the state of grace, but also that there not be bad faith nor litigating motives, and that there be a just cause to approach the minister” (Acta Symposii internationalis circa Codicem canonum ecclesiarum Orientalium, p. 340).

    (2) As you already know, the Church prior to Vatican II administered the sacraments to non-Catholics in cases of extreme necessity. The same level of strictness still applies to Protestants.

    (3) As far as Oriental Christians are concerned, the change in practice is probably rooted in a our developed understanding of ecclesiology. I recommend Stephen A. Hipp’s book, The Once Church of Christ for a proper understanding of Lumen Gentium and Ut Unam Sint.

    (4) As far as the Assisi meetings are concerned, I think these meetings are an example of how modern Catholics’ regard for human dignity has exceeded proper bounds at the expense of the
    rights of God. I don’t doubt that Pope John Paul II had orthodox intentions. He clearly expressed his views on the Church’s missionary duty in Redemptoris missio (1990) and on the exclusive status of the Church in Dominus Iesus (2000). Nonetheless, that wouldn’t take away from the objective evil of whatever sacrileges occurred at the Assisi meetings.

    The canonization of John Paul II would remain valid, as it simply declares the dogmatic fact that he is now in Heaven, though the value of his life as something to be emulated would be compromised. But it has never been the case that canonization implies the impeccability of the saints during earthly life, or that all their earthly deeds are worthy of emulation.

    While sacrilege is always grave matter, I don’t think any fair-minded biographer can doubt the depth and verity of JPII’s devotion to Christ and the Blessed Virgin. His cooperation with sacrilege, if any, would have been largely attributable to an ignorance guided by a misplaced excess of regard for human dignity.

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