Archbishop DiNoia, Ecclesia Dei and the Society of St. Pius X | Daily News |


Archbishop DiNoia, Ecclesia Dei and the Society of St. Pius X | Daily News |

Above is a link to a National Catholic Register interview with the vice president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia.  In it he discusses the Society of Saint Pius X, the Second Vatican Council, and the idea that there could be “errors” within the Council.

The whole interview is good to read, but there are a couple of quotes I just wanted to comment on:

The [reform of the] liturgy has been a factor; it was a terrible revolution and shock for people.

A lot of people born after the Council, and with no experience of the Traditional Latin Mass, don’t always fully appreciate what a huge change in the Mass took place from the Tridentine Mass to the Novus Ordo.  What many, if not most, people understand as the Catholic Faith comes from their liturgy every Sunday.  Most Catholics do not go around reading Council documents (they’re not as crazy as I am 🙂 ).  For such a huge, sudden change from the older form of the Mass to the newer form made it seem for many people that My religion is gone, disappeared.  Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has also criticized the suddenness and drastic nature of the changes that took place in the 1970’s.

The next quote I wanted to discuss was this:

I’ve tried to find an analogy for this. Let’s say the American Constitution can be read in at least two ways: Historians read it, and they are interested in historical context: in the framers, intentions of the framers, the backgrounds of framers and all of that historical work about the Constitution. So, you have a Constitution you can study historically and shed a great deal of light on the meaning of it.

However, when the Supreme Court uses the Constitution, when it’s read as an institutional living document upon which institutions of a country are based, it’s a different reading. So what the framers thought, including not only experts upon whom they’re dependent — they are parallel to the bishops, and the experts are parallel to the periti [theologians who serve participants at an ecumenical council].

Those documents have an independence from all of them. I often say that what Council Fathers intended doesn’t matter because it’s how you apply it today that matters. It’s a living document.

The “living document” approach, both to the United States Constitution, and to Church documents, always makes me uneasy.  The term “living document” indicates that the truth contained in such documents can be interpreted differently from one age to the next.  Yet truth doesn’t change. Because God does not change His mind.  What was evil two thousand years ago is evil today, and will be evil two thousand years from now.  And the same goes for good.  Evil doesn’t become good, and good evil, as the times change.

Now the U.S. Constitution is different since it is a document written by men and not protected by the Holy Ghost.  Church documents must be able to be clearly understood, and normally the popes have immediately provided “keys” to understanding Council documents, often in the form of “anathemas”.  If a document from the Second Vatican Council clearly contradicts an earlier encyclical or council document, then there is a big problem.  For if the Church is protected from error, She is protected from error.  Period.

By the way, this is a point my by Archbishop DiNoia, and it is a good one.

But that doesn’t mean closing ones eyes to apparent breaks in Tradition contained in the Council documents, ones that were seized upon by Modernists and the resulting havoc within the Church.  Now, by saying the documents of the Second Vatican Council must be read in light of Sacred Tradition helps take care of this.  But I wish 40 years hadn’t gone by before a pope, in this case our current Holy Father, Benedict XVI, made the case that the Second Vatican Council must be understood through a Hermeneutic of Continuity with Sacred Tradition (as opposed to a break) in his Christmas Message in 2005.

And finally:

There are doctrinal developments here and there. And the society thinks, of course, that the whole teaching on religious liberty is a departure from the tradition. But some very smart people have tried to point out it’s a development that is consistent.

One of these very “smart people” who state that religious liberty is consistent with Catholic Tradition is George Weigel (I would suggest reading his book Witness to Hope).  But I would insist on not dodging the question of whether the Church previously taught that, what was then known as “Religious Indifferentism” (see Mirari Vos), can “develop” into a teaching proclaiming “Religious Liberty” (see Dignitatis Humanae).  Can something that was condemned before, under one name, now be championed with another name?

This is one of the points of the doctrinal discussions between the Society of Saint Pius X, and the Vatican.  The SSPX insisted on this being answered, and I believe rightfully so.  Also note that I think the question has been being tackled, as shown by the first part of the CNS interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay (shown below).

(look at video at time 1:24)

Bishop Fellay mentions that the Second Vatican Council is presenting religious liberty in a “very very limited” sense, and that Rome has agreed with this.  And yet, with the Fortnight for Freedom and everything going on in the United States and around the world, religious liberty is being presented as a God-given right.  Could it just be that the document Dignitatis Humanae is being misinterpreted (maybe on purpose)?  Was it written in a vague (or purposely vague) sense?  Here’s a question — Is Mirari Vos wrong? Or Quanta Cura written by Pope Pius IX? Or Immortale Dei by Pope Leo XIII? Or Quas Primas by Pope Pius XI? These encyclicals being wrong would be just as big a problem as Dignitatis Humane being wrong.

You can see the problems with these questions not being answered.  If the Church is really protected from error by the Holy Ghost, then all these documents must be true.

I think the answer to this may be what Bishop Athanasius Schneider has called for – a new Syllabus of Errors (Bishop Schneider has a great article in the latest Latin Mass Magazine, btw).

Let’s get the interpretation of the Council documents right, once and for all!

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3 Responses to Archbishop DiNoia, Ecclesia Dei and the Society of St. Pius X | Daily News |

  1. James says:

    From the interviews I’ve seen with him, I like Bishop Fellay. He seems like a holy and humble man. I can’t say the same for all the SSPX bishops. Some of them seem to have a lot of spiritual pride. These are just surface impressions from watching a few interviews, however.

    Based on my understanding of the Catholic position on “religious liberty,” it would be better described as religious tolerance. Catholicism is not a coercive religion, so it does not support the suppression of other religions through force. Therefore, people who profess other religions or no religion are to be left in peace. But this does not mean that other religions are to be approved of. Indeed, Catholics should make an effort to persuade others — through whatever means, whether direct or indirect — to convert. But if people refuse to convert, that decision is to be tolerated and they may be allowed to practice their religion. If I’m wrong on that, please point me to a document correcting me, but I would be very surprised if my understanding is incorrect.

    I must admit, however, that I’m not really up on what the Vatican II documents have to say about religious liberty, and how it has been interpreted that has the SSPX up in arms. I don’t really have the background on this point of contention.

    As for the Fortnight of Freedom, I’m not sure how this is a problem. The Catholic Church has to work within the parameters of the nations in which it resides, to the extent that it can do so without violation its own teachings. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion in the First Amendment, which jives perfectly well with “religious tolerance” as I outlined above, assuming my understanding of the Catholic position is correct. So. We have a government hostile to our religion and a body of faithful which, in large numbers (exact percentages don’t matter — it’s a lot) flagrantly disregard Catholic teaching on contraception. Very unfortunate, but a reality that must be dealt with. In this context, framing opposition to the HHS Mandate, et al, under the banner of contraception being wrong, is probably not going to gain a lot of traction. On the other hand, appealing to the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom *might* be a better (that is, more successful) way to oppose government infringement on the Catholic Church, while still falling within the parameters of Catholic teaching. I believe that is why the USCCB has taken this tack in its opposition.

  2. Hi James.

    I agree with everything that you have said. The bishops of the United States have rooted their arguments against the HHS Mandate on the Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment, rather than a theological “right to error”. I think that the HHS Mandate must be opposed, and I think this is a good strategy for opposing it. I have written my letters to politicians, made my arguments with friends, and am looking to contribute to President Obama’s defeat in November (not that I’ll have that much influence, especially here in Illinois). You may like to know that our Knights’ council is absolutely united in opposing the HHS Mandate as well.

    There are others, though, who believe that “religious liberty” is a God-given right, and I think there are those in the Church who promote it as such. From what I can tell (and as you know I am not a professional theologian) this actually contradicts earlier council documents. The problem the SSPX has with this (and some other) Council positions is that official Church teachings cannot be contradictory… since they are supposed to be protected by the Holy Ghost. I think the SSPX believes this “contradiction” within the Council documents contributed to the mess of heresies the Church dived into, and thus are a big deal. I will post Archbishop Lefebvre’s “I accuse the Council” letter sometime in the future.

    Concerning the other three bishops… I have taken a position similar to many professional Catholic reporters. During this period of (hopefully) reconciliation with Rome, I am refraining from criticizing too much, and just letting the process work itself out. And praying. While I do not have the reach of writers of the National Catholic Register, or Inside the Vatican, etc, this is a very sensitive time, and the Holy Father truly wants a reconciliation to take place.

    After an initial fire-storm of opposition to the lifting of the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops by Pope Benedict XVI, our Holy Father wrote a letter (HERE), part of which really touched me –

    At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them – in this case the Pope – he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

    The SSPX has been a group that “can be easily attacked and hated”, and many people, both in the “liberal” and “conservative” branches of the Church, at times seemed to enjoy “attacking” and “hating” the SSPX. Once the Holy Father called them out on it, the hating seemed to stop for the most part, at least among the conservatives.

    The whole letter of the Holy Father should be read, of course (I pretty much always say that 🙂 ). He also had some criticisms of some members of the SSPX.

  3. James says:

    I see. I think I understand the problem a bit better now. Certainly the idea that people have a God-given right to religious liberty is ridiculous. If God doesn’t care what religion people profess, why would He bother to form the Catholic Church? It’s an illogical and very un-Catholic position to take.

    At some point, I really need to make the time to read some of these Vatican II documents myself. I could evaluate the different sides’ arguments so much better if I had that knowledge in my pocket.

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