"Key Points" of the Council Negotiable?

June 02, 2016
Source: District of the USA

In a German publication, Cardinal Müller says the SSPX should "unreservedly recognize" freedom of religion and ecumenism as a human right

In an interview in the June edition of the German publication Herder Korrespondenz, Cardinal Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), said that if one "wants to be fully Catholic, one must recognize the Pope and the Second Vatican Council."

This interview seems to be an answer to the declarations given by Archbishop Guido Pozzo on April 6, 2016 to La Croix:

As far as the Second Vatican Council is concerned, the ground covered in the meetings over the past few years has led to an important clarification: Vatican II can be adequately understood only in the context of the full Tradition of the Church and her constant Magisterium.
For example, among the Declarations of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate —which opened the door to the new ecumenism with the non-Christian religions— is now considered by the secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission as directives for pastoral action, directions, and suggestions or exhortations of a practical pastoral nature.
The difficulties raised by the SSPX concerning the Church-State relationship and religious freedom, the practice of ecumenism and dialogue with non-Christian religions, certain aspects of the liturgical reform and its concrete application, remain subject to discussion and clarification but do not constitute an obstacle to a canonical and juridical recognition of the SSPX.
The acceptance of the texts on relations with other religions is not a prerequisite for the canonical recognition of the Lefebvrist society, and certain questions can remain 'subject to discussion and clarification'."

BIshop Fellay says it is possible to question the Council's teachings 

Earlier this month, after Archbishop Pozzo announced these new prerequisites, the SSPX’s Superior General, Bishop Bernard Fellay, told the National Catholic Register that "it was now possible to question the Council’s teachings on these issues 'and remain Catholic.'"

“That means, also, the criteria they would impose on us, to have us prove to them that we are Catholic, will no longer be these points,” he said. “That, to us, would be very important.”

Furthermore, he stressed that Rome has two different approaches to the Society: "We have to distinguish the position of the Pope which is one thing, and then the position of the CDF," said Bishop Fellay, who also insisted the SSPX would not compromise on its positions. "They don’t have the same approach but have the same conclusion which is: Let’s finish the problem by giving recognition to the Society."

He added that he was "persuaded, at least in part, by a different approach" that meant giving “less importance to the problem which we [the SSPX] consider important, which is the Council: that means by lessening the binding of the Council." The Pope, Bishop Fellay said, sees doctrine as "quite an obstacle in dealing with people" and, in his wish to see "everybody saved", unties a secure rope "to get to us."

A difference of opinion from Cardinal Müller

But Cardinal Müller told Herder Korrespondenz, one cannot discount the Council as "only pastoral chatter" just because it adopted no binding dogmas.

"Key statements, even if they are not proclaimed ex cathedra [and thus infallible], are, for us Catholics, still essential,” he said, adding that it is “not acceptable to take one and reject the other."

"Religious freedom as a fundamental human right and freedom to protect religion regarding the supernatural revelation in Jesus Christ are recognized by every Catholic without reservation", he said in reference to the relevant Council declarations. 

The recognition of the Second Vatican Council is "not an unreasonably high hurdle” to overcome, he said, adding that it was rather “the adequate remedy to enter into full communion with the Pope and the bishops in communion with him.”

The Prefect of the CDF further asserted that Pope Francis’ relationship to the SSPX does not differ from that of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. "He sees this and similar groups as Catholic, but still on the way towards full Catholic unity." 

Prelates within the hierarchy disagree...

Outside the Society more voices have commented about the non-infaiilbility of the Second Vatican Council's texts and even raised concerns about the rupture with the infallible magisterium.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, following two official visits to seminaries of the SSPX, expressed his position on the subject (although minimizing the importance of the Council), saying that: "I think the issue of Vatican II should not be taken as the 'conditio sine qua non', since it was an assembly with primarily pastoral aims and characteristics. A part of the conciliar statements reflects only its time and possesses a temporary value, as disciplinary and pastoral documents do[.]

In a followup statement, Bishop Schneider observed that the SSPX "makes some theological criticism of some not strictly dogmatic affirmations in the texts of Vatican II and of some postconciliar documents, which have to be taken seriously." And also, "[that] some theological objections of the SSPX can be a constructive contribution for a more mature theological explication of certain themes, as for example the collegiality, religious liberty, the liturgical reform[.]"

Even prior to Bishop Schneider's remarks, Monsignor Brunero Gherardini cast light on the problems in certain conciliar texts in his 2009 book, The Ecumenical Second Vatican Council: A Much Needed Discussion. Here is an excerpt:

So is it possible to inscribe Dignitatis Humanæ within the hermeneutics of continuity? If we are satisfied with an abstract proclamation, certainly so; but at the level of historic pertinence, I cannot see how it could be.
And the reason boils down to stating the obvious: the liberty proclaimed in the decree Dignitatis Humanæ, which does not concern one aspect of the human person, but his very essence and, together with it, all his individual and public activity since he is free from any political and religious conditioning, has very little in common with, for instance, Mirari vos by Gregory XVI, Quanta cura and the Syllabus appended by Blessed Pius IX, Immortale Dei by Leo XIII (especially with regard to all that pertains to the relationships between civil authority and the government of the Church), Pascendi dominici gregis by St. Pius X and the decree Lamentabili released shortly before by the Holy Office, or with Humani generis by Pius XII.
In fact, it is not a matter of a different language. The diversity is substantial and hence irreducible. The respective contents are different.
The content of the preceding Magisterium finds neither continuity nor development in that of Dignitatis Humanæ."

One must also remember that in September 2011, nearly 50 Catholic leaders in Italy submitted a respectful petition to Pope Benedict XVI requesting "a more in-depth examination of the pastoral council, Vatican II." 3

Is the intransigent support for Vatican II waning?

The battle continues about the texts of the Second Vatican Council and what appeared to be impregnable walls are clearly cracking. As Bishop Fellay commented it in his sermon during a recent pilgrimage to Notre-Dame du Puy-en-Velay in France:

"[M]y dear brothers, all this shows us something: that fidelity to all that the Church has always taught really does pay. We must just remain firm. These modern people cannot deny it; the reality is obvious: we are Catholics and we want to remain so. May Mary keep us Faithful to the Catholic Faith!”