The Status of Criticizing Vatican II

March 01, 2021

During the meeting organized on January 30, 2021 by the Office of Catechesis of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), Pope Francis reaffirmed that “the Council is the Magisterium of the Church,” insisting: “either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or if you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the Church.” 

Based on a quote from Paul VI, at the first assembly of the CEI held after the Council, Pope Francis designated Vatican II as the “great catechism of the new times.”

Certainly Francis was targeting those who, also according to Paul VI, want to “renegotiate the Council to obtain more.” But it appears that those who want to open a theological debate on Vatican II to denounce the doctrinal fractures which it has caused are also in the crosshairs of the pope.

From this perspective, the book entitled L’altro Vaticano II [The Other Vatican II], published by the Vaticanist Aldo Maria Valli, is not going to receive the Pope’s imprimatur. This collective work offers a counter-current look at the Second Vatican Council, “an essential theme if we want to address the question of the crisis of the Church and of the faith itself,” writes the Italian journalist, recalling : “Vatican II began with a Church that wanted to please the world as a loving and sweet, reliable, and welcoming mother. An understandable desire, but which [in fact] opened the door to apostasy. Jesus never wanted to please the world, nor did He make consessions of any kind in order to appear sympathetic and conversational.”

In his blog of January 30, 2021, Aldo Maria Valli underlines the need to “de-dogmatize” Vatican II: “A Council that wanted to be non-dogmatic has itself become a dogma. If, on the other hand, we are able to look at it as an event with many faces, with the hopes it gave but also with all its intrinsic limitations and the errors of perspective that marked it, we will do a good service to the Church and to the quality of our faith. Often, looking at the origins of the disease in the face causes a sense of grief and can also create an insidious impression of failure. Nonetheless, it must be done if the path to recovery is to be found.”

The work manages to bring together on this theme personalities as diverse, even divergent, as Enrico Maria Radaelli, Fr. Serafino Maria Lanzetta, Fr. Giovanni Cavalcoli, Fabio Scaffardi, Alessandro Martinetti, Roberto de Mattei, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun , Eric Sammons, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, Giovanni Formicola, Don Alberto Strumia, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

And Aldo Maria Valli warns: “in this book there is room for different modulations. If Fr.  Giovanni Cavalcoli, for example, writes that the pastoral outcomes of the Council can be debated, but the doctrines must be accepted, and if Msgr. Guido Pozzo proposes a way between renewal and continuity, there are those, like Eric Sammons, who admit that if they had once defended the Council, now they openly challenge it. And if Don Alberto Strumia, while admitting that the Council has many faults, maintains that we should not make it a scapegoat, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Athanasius Schneider explain why the modernist disease must be fully diagnosed, in order to provide an adequate remedy.”

Aldo Maria Valli pays homage to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who, from 1976, did not hesitate to publish his J'accuse le Conseil [I Accuse the Council]: “Half a century after the end of the Council, it is finally necessary to deepen the substance of the questions posed by Archbishop Lefebvre, but also by many other observers and representatives of the Church, up to the recent positions taken by Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider.

The hermeneutics of continuity or a squared circle

With these last two prelates, the question focuses on “the hermeneutics of continuity” promoted by Benedict XVI in 2005. The Vaticanist writes quite rightly on this subject: “The hermeneutics of continuity does not stand the test of facts. For example, with regard to the social kingship of Christ and the objective falsity of non-Christian religions, Vatican II marks a break with the teaching of previous popes and leads to the objectively unacceptable results of the Abu Dhabi Declaration signed by Francis.”

“By accusing critics of having remained tied to a past that must be overcome, it implicitly affirms the need to overcome the teaching of all the popes up to Pius XII. But ‘such a theological position,’ observes Bishop Athanasius Schneider, ‘is ultimately Protestant and heretical, since the Catholic faith implies an unbroken tradition, an uninterrupted continuity, without a perceptible doctrinal and liturgical rupture.’”

Aldo Maria Valli enumerates the recent Roman documents which should be lucidly studied: “With the Abu Dhabi Declaration, these are Amoris lætitia, Laudato si’ and Fratelli tutti which should encourage us to reflect on the extent of the rupture. And here it suffices to see that the encyclical on fraternity [Fratelli tutti] lacks a clearly supernatural horizon and the proclamation of the truth that Christ is the indispensable source of true fraternity.”

“The destruction of the Catholic faith and of the Holy Mass, not only tolerated but often promoted by the highest authorities of the Holy See, cannot leave the baptized inert. Recognizing the roots of the disease is a duty. Resistance is necessary. Which resistance must be all the more explicit and coherent the more the dogmatization of the Council is opposed against it.”

Again, the Italian journalist refers to Archbishop Lefebvre: “The problems arrived very quickly and some did not hide them. This is evidenced by the dramatic confrontation that took place at Castel Gandolfo on September 11, 1976 between Paul VI and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. ‘You are in a terrible position! You are an antipope,’ exclaimed Montini. ‘It’s not true. I am only trying to form priests according to faith and in faith,’ replied the founder of the Society of Saint Pius X.”

“Re-reading the contents of that very hard confrontation (thanks to the minutes drawn up by Msgr. Giovanni Benelli, then substitute for the Secretariat of State) makes it clear that the issues have been on the table for a long time.”

“At one point Paul VI exclaimed: 'You told the whole world that the Pope has no faith, that he does not believe, that he is a modernist, etc. I must, yes, be humble, but you are in a terrible position. You are doing extremely serious acts before the world.”

And Archbishop Lefebvre replied: “It is not I who want to create a movement, it is the faithful who are torn by sorrow and who do not accept certain situations. I am not the leader of the traditionalists. I am a bishop who, grieved by what is happening, tried to train priests as he did before the Council. I behave exactly as I did before the Council. So I cannot understand how it is possible that I am suddenly condemned for training priests in obedience to the healthy tradition of the Holy Church.”

By rejecting Benedict XVI's attempt to “save” the Council by means of “the hermeneutics of continuity,” Aldo Maria Valli takes up Archbishop Lefebvre’s debate with Paul VI from 45 years ago: “Today, in the year 2021, it is time to put aside the unfortunate method of ‘squaring the circle,’ i.e., attempting to justify the unjustifiable. The expression ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ cannot be used as a magic formula to hide reality, and the reality is that the Council carried within itself the seeds of the catastrophe which is before our eyes today.”

“It is paradoxical that the request of many lay people, that is, that there finally be clarity, that errors be recognized and corrected and that teaching be put back in line with tradition, is despised by what Bishop Athanasius Schneider defines as ‘the ecclesiastical nomenklatura.’ Precisely the clerics who for decades have preached and solicited, in the name of the Council, positions of leadership for the laity, now fall back into the most vile clericalism and enjoin the laity to bow down, to be silent. ‘But the lay faithful,’ says Bishop Schneider, ‘must respond to these arrogant clerics.’”

“The truth, as Archbishop Schneider maintains, is that, during the Second Vatican Council, ‘the Church began to offer herself to the world, to flirt with the world, to manifest an inferiority complex in relation to the world.’ If before the Council, the clerics showed Christ to the world and not themselves, from the Council onwards the Catholic Church began to ‘implore the sympathy of the world’ and today she does so more than ever, but ‘this is unworthy of her and will not earn her the respect of those who truly seek God.’”

If, regarding the hermeneutic of continuity, Aldo Maria Valli speaks of “squaring the circle,” in a study published on the American blog site One Peter Five, on September 21, 2020, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò—one of the co-authors of Altro Vaticano II—spoke of the “rock of Sisyphus”:

“The aim of Vatican II’s public defenders has turned out to be the struggle of Sisyphus: as soon as they succeed, by a thousand efforts and a thousand distinctions, in formulating a seemingly reasonable solution that doesn’t directly touch their little idol, immediately their words are repudiated by opposing statements from a progressive theologian, a German Prelate, or Francis himself. And so, the conciliar boulder rolls back down the hill again, where gravity attracts it to its natural resting place.”

And the Roman prelate clarified: “It is obvious that, for a Catholic, a Council is ipso facto of such authority and importance that he spontaneously accepts its teachings with filial devotion. But it is equally obvious that the authority of a Council, of the Fathers who approve its decrees, and of the Popes who promulgate them, does not make the acceptance of documents that are in blatant contradiction with the Magisterium, or at least weaken it, any less problematic.”

“And if this problem continues to persist after sixty years, revealing a perfect consistency with the deliberate will of the Innovators who prepared its documents and influenced its proponents, we must ask ourselves what is the obex, the insurmountable obstacle, that forces us, against all reasonableness, to consider Catholic what is not, in the name of a criterion that applies only and exclusively to what is certainly Catholic.” 

“One needs to keep clearly in mind that the analogia fidei applies precisely to the truths of Faith, and not to error, since the harmonious unity of the Truth in all its articulations cannot seek coherence with what is opposed to it. If a conciliar text formulates a heretical concept, or one close to heresy, there is no hermeneutical criterion that can make it orthodox simply because that text belongs to the Acts of a Council.”

“We all know what deceptions and skillful maneuvers have been put in place by ultra-progressive consultors and theologians, with the complicity of the modernist wing of the Council Fathers. And we also know with what complicity John XXIII and Paul VI approved this coup de main (surprise attack) in violation of the norms which they themselves approved.”

“The central vice therefore lies in having fraudulently led the Council Fathers to approve ambiguous texts – which they considered Catholic enough to deserve the placet – and then using that same ambiguity to get them to say exactly what the Innovators wanted.”

“It should be noted that this mechanism, inaugurated by Vatican II, has seen a recrudescence, an acceleration, indeed an unprecedented upsurge with Bergoglio, who deliberately resorts to imprecise expressions, cunningly formulated without precise theological language, with the same intention of dismantling, piece by piece, what remains of doctrine, in the name of applying the Council. It’s true that, with Bergoglio, heresy and heterogeneity with respect to the Magisterium are blatant and almost shameless; but it is equally true that the Abu Dhabi Declaration would not have been conceivable without the premise of Lumen Gentium.”

“I wish to conclude by reiterating a fact which, in my view, is very indicative: if the same commitment that pastors have exerted for decades in defending Vatican II and the ‘conciliar church’ had been used to reaffirm and defend the entirety of Catholic doctrine, or even only to promote knowledge of the Catechism of St. Pius X among the faithful, the situation of the ecclesial world would be radically different. But it is also true that faithful formed in fidelity to doctrine would have reacted with pitchforks to the adulterations of the Innovators and their protectors.”