|The Great Moral Flaw in the Second Vatican Council|
|It's a question of the Oath!|
Professor Raymond B. Marcin
|GUEST REMNANT COLUMNIST|
"The darkness of Satan has entered
and spread throughout the Catholic Church
even to its summit" ...Pope Paul VI
(POSTED OCTOBER 11, 2006 www.Remnantnewspaper.com) The thesis of this article will seem radical to many and will no doubt be controversial. This article suggests that there was a great moral flaw – not just a moral flaw, but a great moral flaw – in the doings of the Second Vatican Council, and that the great moral flaw contains within it an implication that the participants in the Second Vatican Council could not have been cooperating with the oversight of God the Holy Spirit.
The very title of this paper might be seen as offensive to those who suggest that there cannot possibly be a “moral flaw” in the Second Vatican Council, or in any Ecumenical Council, because of the oversight of the Holy Spirit. To them, the title may even seem blasphemous.
On the other hand, and possibly at the other end of the Catholic spectrum, the singularity in the title of this paper might seem a bit strange and perhaps presumptuous to those who, well-schooled in the timeless truths of the Catholic faith, have been soundly disoriented and dissatisfied with the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, and who have failed to experience the grand “springtime” of faith that the Second Vatican Council promised. Likely in the minds of those brave souls, many moral flaws were exhibited in the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, and it might seem presumptuous to identify one as the “great” moral flaw.
This paper, however, suggests that there were indeed moral flaws in the Second Vatican Council, and without quarreling with the thesis that there were many moral flaws both at the Second Vatican Council and in the implementation of its documents, contends that there was indeed one “great” moral flaw – a moral flaw that underlay and served as a launching point for all the other Vatican-II and post-Vatican-II moral flaws that have been observed over the past four decades – and this “great” moral flaw is one that, if accepted at face value, threatens the very understanding of the Second Vatican Council as a “legitimate” Ecumenical Council, even casting grave and serious doubt on the proposition that God the Holy Spirit was in any way involved in overseeing the doings of the participants in the Second Vatican Council.
During the closing ceremonies at the end of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI joyously informed the world that the Second Vatican Council had been “assembled in the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary … and of Saint Joseph … and of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul”. Seven years later the same Pope Paul VI, on the otherwise joyous occasion of the ninth anniversary of his election as Pope, issued the following lament:
We believed that after the [Second Vatican] Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms, and of darkness ... And how did this come about? We will confide to you the thought that may be, we ourselves admit in free discussion, that may be unfounded, and that is that there has been a power, an adversary power. Let us call him by his name: the devil. … It is as if from some mysterious crack, no, it is not mysterious, from some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.
The clouds and storms and darkness are not difficult to bring to mind. Over the past four decades since the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Church has experienced a sharp falloff in attendance at Mass, a sharp falloff in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, a cessation of belief in the Real Presence among a clear majority of the laity (surveys suggest that 70% of Catholics no longer accept the doctrine), a failure of Catholic schools and teachers to catechize and educate the past two generations of Catholic children in the timeless truths of the Catholic faith, a widespread non-use of the Sacrament of Penance, the effects of a relaxed and easier annulment process on understandings of the sanctity and permanence of marriage – not to mention the shocking priestly and even episcopal homosexual and ephebophile sex scandals (known all along but not widely publicized until 2002) and the more recently emerging embezzlement scandals. All these developments since the Second Vatican Council illustrate what Pope Paul VI must have had in mind when he lamented that “the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.”
What went wrong? What was the “crack” through which the smoke of Satan entered the Church and that caused the hopes and aspirations of the participants in the Second Vatican Council to go unrealized and the Church herself to seemingly go awry – so awry that Pope Paul VI was moved to surmise that the devil is afoot spreading clouds and storms and darkness within the Church?
One clue as to the identity of the “crack” comes surprisingly from the early, post-Vatican-II writings of our present Pope, Benedict XVI. Back in 1982, Pope Benedict XVI, then writing as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, made some astonishing statements in a treatise on Catholic theology. The statements that he made lie at the heart of a controversy that is currently percolating within the Church, especially in so-called traditionalist and so-called conservative Catholic circles.
First of all, what about that notion that there cannot possibly be a “moral flaw” in the Second Vatican Council, or in any Ecumenical Council, because of the oversight of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps surprisingly to some, Pope Benedict XVI, then writing as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, acknowledged that “[n]ot every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis many of them have been just a waste of time” and in the very next sentence he wrote that “the last word about the historical value of Vatican Council II has yet to be spoken.” Many “valid” Church Councils have been “just a waste of time”? Why, if God the Holy Spirit watches over the doings of every valid Church Council, would “many” of them turn out to be “just a waste of time”? Could it possibly be that, in connection with those “many” waste-of-time Councils, the participants failed, for some reason, to cooperate with God the Holy Spirit’s oversight? And is the jury still out, as the Holy Father (then writing as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) seems to have suggested, on whether the Second Vatican Council itself might be one of those waste-of-time Councils?
The Holy Father came closer to identifying the crack when he went on to suggest that the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and especially its centerpiece, Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), were intended to “correct” what he called the one-sidedness of the anti-modernist position adopted by the Church under Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X, the Popes whose Syllabi of Errors and Encyclicals warned against the dangers of that heresy of Modernism. This was a remarkably candid admission. These are the Holy Father’s words:
If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text [of Gaudium et Spes] as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus.
In a footnote to that quoted passage, the Holy Father explained that “[t]he position taken in the Syllabus [of Pope Blessed Pius IX] was adopted and continued in [Pope Saint] Pius X’s struggle against ‘Modernism’.” Returning to his main text, he went on to write that:
...the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under [Pope Blessed] Pius IX and [Pope Saint] Pius X in response to the situation created by the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution was, to a large extent, corrected via facti, especially in Central Europe, but there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the world that had come into existence after 1789 [the year of the French Revolution].
Parenthetically – and with tongue slightly in cheek – one might assume that when Pope Benedict XVI wrote that at the time of the Second Vatican Council “there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the [post-1789] world,” he meant that there was no such basic statement except the basic statements of Pope Gregory XVI (Mirari Vos – On Liberalism, 1832); Pope Blessed Pius IX (Quanta Cura – On Current Errors, 1864, and Syllabus of Errors, 1864); Pope Leo XIII (Diuturnum Illud – On Government Authority, 1881, Humanum Genus – On Freemasonry and Naturalism, 1884, Libertas Praestantissimum – On the Nature of True Liberty, 1888, Rerum Novarum – On the Condition of the Working Classes. 1891, and Graves de Communi Re – On Christian Democracy, 1901); Pope Saint Pius X (Lamentabili Sane – Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists, 1907, Pascendi Dominici Gregis – On Modernism, 1907, On the “Sillon”, 1910, and Sacrorum Antistitum – The Oath against Modernism, 1910); Pope Pius XI (Quas Primas – On the Feast of Christ the King, 1925, Mortalium Animos – On Fostering True Religious Unity, 1928, and Divini Redemptoris – On Atheistic Communism, 1937); and Pope Pius XII (Humani Generis – On Certain False Opinions Which Threaten to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine, 1950). In other words, there was, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the post-1789 world, except the several basic statements over several post-1789 generations and several post-1789 papacies which, with remarkable internal consistency over those generations and those papacies, bespoke a “relationship” of opposition between the Church and the post-1789 “modernist” world – statements with which the overwhelming majority of the participants in the Second Vatican Council apparently wanted to disagree.
The Holy Father seemed candidly to admit exactly that when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote:
[T]he text [of the Vatican II documents, especially Gaudium et Spes] serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.
At first glance, these statements of Pope Benedict XVI may not seem to be “astonishing”. He was, after all, only stating the obvious, wasn’t he? He was only being candid. His statement was actually quite unremarkable. It is well known and widely popularly believed that reconciling the Church with the modern world was the whole point of the Second Vatican Council – wasn’t it? What perhaps gnaws uncomfortably at the intellect in those statements is the fact that the Holy Father was suggesting that the main goal of the Second Vatican Council was to set up a counter-syllabus, an opposition document, to the consistent and uniform teachings of six of his predecessor Popes.
To place the Holy Father’s statements in the sharpest possible context, one must go back to those events that occurred more than a half century before the Second Vatican Council, in the midst of the era in which the Church was consistently articulating its statements of opposition towards the tenets of liberalism and modernism that came to characterize the post-1789 age.
On July 3, in the year 1907, Pope Saint Pius X issued a decree called Lamentabili Sane, listing and condemning the errors of a heresy which he referred to as “Modernism”. Two months later in that same year, on September 8, Pope Saint Pius X issued the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, a more lengthy explanatory discussion and condemnation of the heresy of Modernism, referring to it as the synthesis of all heresies. Three years later, on September 1, 1910, Pope Saint Pius X issued a motu proprio entitled Sacrorum Antistitum in which he mandated that an Oath against Modernism (welcomed at the time by genuine Catholics and dreaded by the dissenting Catholics of the day) be taken by all Catholic clergy before being ordained to the subdiaconate on their way to the priesthood. The text of the Oath, mentioning and condemning the tenets and tendencies of the heresy, was prescribed in the motu proprio. It is of great importance to note that Pope Saint Pius X’s Oath Against Modernism mandate was not rescinded until 1967, more than a year after the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Thus it seems that every Catholic priest ordained between the years 1910 and 1967 was obliged to take Pope Saint Pius X’s Oath against Modernism.
Recall our current Holy Father’s words: “The position taken in the Syllabus [of Pope Blessed Pius IX] was adopted and continued in [Pope Saint] Pius X’s struggle against ‘Modernism’”, and “the text [of Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), Dignitatis Humanae (the Declaration on Religious Freedom), and Nostra Aetate (the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions)] as a whole . . . is a revision of the Syllabus of [Pope Blessed] Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus.”
The implications are startling. Every single bishop, archbishop, and cardinal who participated in the Second Vatican Council and every single Vatican II peritus (expert advisor) who was also a priest, without exception, had taken the Oath against Modernism mandated for all Catholic clergy by Saint Pius X in 1910 and not rescinded by the Vatican until 1967. Every single participant in the Second Vatican Council was under an oath-bound obligation to God Almighty, “with due reverence [to] submit and adhere with [his] whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili [the encyclical and decree that condemned Modernism as a heresy]”. Seen in this light, Pope Benedict XVI’s statements are truly astonishing. How could the participants in the Second Vatican Council set out intentionally to “correct” or to set up a “countersyllabus” to, that to which they all, without exception, had sworn, “with [their] whole heart,” to “submit and adhere”? How can one who is oath-bound to support the papal condemnations of the heresy of Modernism act to correct or “counter” those very condemnations?
What are we to believe? Are we to believe that those who voted in favor of the “countersyllabus” documents of the Second Vatican Council which were intended to “correct” the pronouncements of Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X (and presumably the pronouncements of Popes Gregory XVI, Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Pius XII as well) violated the Oath against Modernism that they had taken? That they forgot their oath? In either case – and this is the great moral flaw in the Second Vatican Council – it is not possible to accept that the participants in the Second Vatican Council were cooperating with God the Holy Spirit when they adopted measures inconsistent with the Oath Against Modernism – an oath that they all had taken. This fact, if accepted, casts more than serious doubt both on the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” and indeed on the very legitimacy of all of the Second Vatican Council’s “countersyllabus” documents – documents that, according to Pope Benedict XVI, were intended to “correct” or “counter” teachings which all the participants in the Second Vatican Council were oath-bound to uphold.
Lest we are tempted to suggest that Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X’s condemnations of Modernism were only addressed to an obscure turn-of-the-twentieth-century set of beliefs of a few ultra-liberal theologians of the day, we are reminded of Pope Saint Pius X’s identification of the Modernism that he was condemning as “the synthesis of all heresies” and of a more contemporary admonition delivered by Pope Paul VI’s that Modernism “is the most dangerous revolution the Church has ever had to face, and it is still scourging her severely.” Pope Paul VI went on to identify the Modernism that is “still” scourging the Church severely with the Modernism attacked by Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X when he characterized it as a “revolution” within the Church:
This revolution is a process of self-demolition and it aims at driving the Church to the end of the road to perdition. The trinity of parents responsible for the perversion known as modernism are: 1) Its religious ancestor is the Protestant Reformation; 2) Its philosophical parent is the Enlightenment; 3) Its political pedigree comes from the French Revolution.
Further, if we are to judge by the fruits of the Second Vatican Council, what are we to believe? We have Pope Paul VI’s own evaluation of the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council:
We looked forward to a flowering, a serene expansion of concepts which matured in the great sessions of the Council. . . . [Instead, i]t is as if the Church were destroying herself.
We have the impression that through some cracks in the wall the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God: . . . doubt, uncertainty, questioning, dissatisfaction, confrontation . . . We thought that after the Council a day of sunshine would have dawned for the history of the Church. What dawned, instead, was a day of clouds and storms, of darkness, of searching and uncertainties.
The clouds, the storms, the darkness, the searching, the uncertainties – who can say that they are not still with us today, more than four decades after the close of the Second Vatican Council? If the Church herself is to judge the Second Vatican Council by its fruits, should she not heed Our Lord’s injunction given at the close of His Sermon on the Mount? – “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.”
It seems to be merely an exercise in common sense to conclude that the fruits of decisions to “counter” or “correct” those teachings that the decision-makers were oath-bound to uphold would turn out to be clouds, storms, darkness, searching, and uncertainties. It is not a wonder that, in the wake of an oath-abandoning Council, it should appear as if the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God. If it is true – as Pope Paul VI said it was true – that the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God, and if it is true, as seems likely when one resorts to common sense, that the smoke of Satan crept into the Second Vatican Council with the breaking or discarding or abandoning or forgetting of the Oath against Modernism, then it is high time that the smoke of Satan be swept away, and that higher minds with no other agenda except adherence to the timeless truths of the Catholic faith excise the demon and restore that faith. It was again Pope Paul VI, the pope who presided over the adoption of the oath-tainted documents of the Second Vatican Council, who expressed the final verdict on the Second Vatican Council shortly before his death. These are Pope Paul VI’s words:
The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church.
Was Pope Paul VI just “whistling Dixie”? Or was he, in his final days, trying to tell us something important?
It is becoming impossible to deny that the tree that bore the fruits of that violated or discarded Oath against Modernism – the darkness of Satan, apostasy, loss of faith at the “highest” levels within the Church, the doubt, the uncertainty, the questioning, the dissatisfaction, the confrontations, the clouds, the storms – is the Second Vatican Council itself. It is simply not possible to affirm that God the Holy Spirit somehow countenanced the violation or the discarding of an oath taken to God Himself.
One can’t help recalling our present Holy Father’s words: “Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis many of them have been just a waste of time” and “the last word about the historical value of Vatican Council II has yet to be spoken.” Jesus has told us what must be done, in no uncertain terms, about unfruitful trees, and presumably about unfruitful councils: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.” The simple, yet astonishingly difficult-to-accept, implication is that “the clouds, the storms, the darkness” that Pope Paul VI saw besetting the Church, and that still beset the Church today (exemplified and multiplied by the once-unthinkable sex and embezzlement scandals), must continue until the Church repudiates all the changes and innovations wrought by the Council participants’ abandonment of their oath-bound obligations oppose Modernism.
Dr. Marcin is a professor of law at the Catholic University of America
 Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Brief “In Spiritu Sancto” For the Closing of the Council, December 8, 1965.
 Pope Paul VI, Address, June 29, 1972, On the Occasion of the Ninth Anniversary of His Election (emphasis added).
 Inordinate sexual attraction to vulnerable, post-pubescent, teen-age boys.
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, tr. Sister Mary Frances McCarthy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1987), 378; originally published in German under the title Theologische Prinzipienlehre (Erich Wewel Verlag, Munich 1982).
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, tr. Sister Mary Frances McCarthy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1987), 381 (emphasis added).
 Ibid., 381-82.
 The texts of all these documents are reproduced in The Popes Against Modern Errors (ed. Anthony J. Mioni, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1999).
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, tr. Sister Mary Frances McCarthy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1987), 382 (emphasis added).
 For an excellent discussion of the heresy of Modernism in general and of Pascendi Dominici Gregis in particular, see Michael Davies, Partisans of Error: St. Pius X Against the Modernists (Neumann Press, 1983).
 Pope Saint Pius X, Sacrorem Antistitum (The Oath Against Modernism).
 In 1918, the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office declared that the prescriptions of the Oath against Modernism must remain in full force until the Holy See declares otherwise. See The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary (eds. James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green & Donald E. Heintschel, Paulist Press 1985), page 585. The mandate was rescinded by a decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in July of 1967. See “Oath against Modernism” in The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, at page 926.
 Pope Paul VI’s discourse closing the Second Vatican Council was delivered on December 7, 1965.
 Ibid. (Emphasis added).
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, tr. Sister Mary Frances McCarthy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1987), 381 (emphases added).
 Pope Saint Pius X, Sacrorem Antistitum (The Oath Against Modernism).
 Pope Saint Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis – On Modernism, 1907 (emphasis added).
 Quoted in Ted and Maureen Flynn, The Thunder of Justice 222 (1993) (emphasis added). For an analysis of the heresy of Modernism, see Raymond B. Marcin, “The Heresy of Modernism”, The Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition, Spring, 2006, p.36
 Quoted in Ted and Maureen Flynn, The Thunder of Justice 222 (1993).
 Pope Paul VI, Address to Lombard College, December 7, 1968
 Pope Paul VI, Address on the Ninth Anniversary of His Pontificate, June 29, 1972.
 Matthew 7:19-20. Douay-Rheims.
 Pope Paul VI, Address on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions, October 13, 1977 (emphasis added).
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, tr. Sister Mary Frances McCarthy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1987), 378.