The Second Vatican Council Was Not Infallible
The Second Vatican Council (1963-5) was not intended to be an infallible doctrinal council but was conceived as a “pastoral” renewal of the Church to bring it into line with the Revolution of 1789. Paul VI admitted it to be a disaster. For proof, we shall quote the addresses of Popes John XXIII († 1963) and Paul VI († 1978) at the opening and closing of the Council, as well as other material from Popes, cardinals and bishops.
The Testimony of John XXIII
Pope John XXIII himself stated in his Opening Address at the beginning of Vatican II that the Council was not intended to be a doctrinal council concerned with defining any articles of Faith; rather it was to be a “pastoral” council that was concerned with representing the Catholic Faith in a manner acceptable to the modern world.
“The salient point of this council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all. For this a council was not necessary. [...] The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.” (Opening Address, October 11, 1962; Walter M. Abbott, SJ, The Documents of Vatican II, p. 715)
The Council was convoked after World War II and the defeat of Fascism and Nazism. John XXIII intended that the Council should, by a new “presentation” of Catholic doctrine, bring the Church in line with the World Order of liberal pluralism, which he claimed was from God. It was a political revolution within the Church.
“Illuminated by the light of this Council, the Church - we confidently trust - will become greater in spiritual riches and gaining the strength of new energies therefrom, she will look to the future without fear. In fact, by bringing herself up to date where required, and by the wise organization of mutual co-operation, the Church will make men, families, and peoples really turn their minds to heavenly things. […] In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfilment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church. […] She opens the fountain of her life-giving doctrine which allows men, enlightened by the light of Christ, to understand well what they really are, what their lofty dignity and their purpose are, and, finally, through her children, she spreads everywhere the fullness of Christian charity, than which nothing is more effective in eradicating the seeds of discord, nothing more efficacious in promoting concord, just peace, and the brotherly unity of all.” (Opening Address, October 11, 1962; Walter M. Abbott, SJ, The Documents of Vatican II, pp. 712-3 , 716-7)
So Vatican II was “pastoral” in so far as it intended to change the Church, “bring it up to date”, and incorporate it into “a new order of human relations”, so that the Church would respect “human differences”, such as other religions, and would work for a “brotherly unity of all”.
Pope Benedict XVI stated in 1982 that the Council’s documents, including the text Gaudium et Spes (Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), were intended to revise the Church so that it would uphold and practice the values of the Revolution of 1789, namely pluralism and secularisation. Those values, such as freedom of conscience, the liberty of other religions, a separation of Church from the state and many other basic tenants of liberal pluralism had been repeatedly condemned by the Church, in particular by Pope Pius IX in his Syllabus of Modern Errors. Ratzinger wrote this:
“If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text [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. [...] Let us be content to say that the text 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.” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 1987, pp. 381-2, Ignatius Press 1987)
Pope John Paul II, summed it up when he completely contradicted the pre-conciliar Popes as follows.
“Freedom of conscience and of religion, including the aforementioned elements, is a primary and inalienable right of man.” (“The Freedom of Conscience and of Religion”, September 1, 1980)
The Testimony of Paul VI
The Theological Commission of the Council made a declaration, a nota previa (preliminary note), concerning the theological note of Vatican II on March 6, 1964. Pope Paul VI had it read by the Council’s General Secretary, Pericle Cardinal Felici, who was the Prefect of the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office, to the Council’s participants on November 16 of that year. It was intended to assure them that it was not an infallible council, before they gave their approval to the first conciliar text, that on the Church, Lumen Gentium. The declaration was published as an addendum to that text. It says that as the Council was intended to be “pastoral”, it should not be understood to be infallibly defining any matter unless it openly says so (which it never did).
“In view of the conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so.” (Walter M. Abbott, SJ, The Documents of Vatican II, p. 98)
Cardinal Felici elaborated on this to Archbishop Lefebvre († 1991), who narrated his experience.
“These events I was involved in. It is I who carried the signatures to Mgr. Felici, the Council Secretary, accompanied by Mgr. de Proenca Sigaud, Archbishop of Diamantina: and I am obliged to say there occurred things that are truly inadmissible. I do not say this in order to condemn the Council; and I am not unaware that there is here a cause of confusion for a great many Catholics. After all, they think the Council was inspired by the Holy Ghost.
“Not necessarily. A non-dogmatic, pastoral council is not a recipe for infallibility. When, at the end of the sessions, we asked Cardinal Felici, “Can you not give us what the theologians call the “theological note of the Council?”” he replied, “We have to distinguish according to the schemas and the chapters those which have already been the subject of dogmatic definitions in the past; as for the declarations which have a novel character, we have to make reservations.” (An Open Letter to Confused Catholics, By His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Chapter 14, “Vatican II is the French Revolution in the Church.”, p. 107)
According to the General Secretary of Vatican II, distinctions must be made: the dogmatic definitions of the past must of course be adhered to, but “reservations” must be made regarding any doctrines of a “novel character”. Never before in the history of the Catholic Church had a council ever taken pains to declare that it was not teaching infallibly, unless it should “openly declare so”, which it never did. And that a General Secretary should confide that “reservations” must be made about its teachings of “a novel character” is quite staggering. Vatican II was clearly unlike any ecumenical council which preceded it.
Paul VI also stated that Vatican II was not infallible when he concluded it.
“Today we are concluding the Second Vatican Council. [...] But one thing must be noted here, namely, that the teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements, has made thoroughly known its authoritative teaching on a number of questions which today weigh upon man’s conscience and activity, descending, so to speak, into a dialogue with him, but ever preserving its own authority and force; it has spoken with the accommodating friendly voice of pastoral charity; its desire has been to be heard and understood by everyone; it has not merely concentrated on intellectual understanding but has also sought to express itself in simple, up-to-date, conversational style, derived from actual experience and a cordial approach which make it more vital, attractive and persuasive; it has spoken to modern man as he is.” (Address during the last general meeting of the Second Vatican Council, December 7, 1965; AAS 58)
Vatican II did not “issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements” at all; that refers to infallible definitions, none of which were made. That Council was not infallible, did not claim to be and it was repeatedly said that it was not. Rather it claimed to “descend so to speak, into a dialogue with” man, “with the accommodating friendly voice of pastoral charity” and to “express itself in simple, up-to-date, conversational style, derived from actual experience and a cordial approach”. The Council was intended to reorient the Church to the world, to be “accommodating” and “friendly”, “up-to-date” with the pluralistic, liberal World Order.
The very same day, the Council’s pluralist “Declaration on Religious Liberty”, Dignitatis Humanae (Of the Dignity of Man), was finalised as addressed to the whole world.
“Over and above all this, in taking up the matter of religious freedom this sacred Synod intends to develop the doctrine of recent Popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and on the constitutional order of society. This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.” (Dignitatis Humanae, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, The Documents of Vatican II, pp. 677-8)
The Vatican ordered all Catholic countries to alter their constitutions so that they would no longer be Catholic countries but would uphold liberal pluralism. Francisco Franco resisted and the Church attempted to undermine him. Before the Council, the Church had given him the title of “Defender of the Church”.
Paul VI gave the theological note of the revolutionary Council in his Apostolic Brief for its closing, “In Spiritu Sancto”(December 8, 1965), which was read at the closing ceremonies of that day by Archbishop Felici, the General Secretary. Paul VI had already stated in his address concluding the Council the day before that the Council had not “wish[ed] to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements” and therefore was not infallible; Felici went on to explain that Paul VI was making the Council a matter of religious submission, which is the assent given to non-infallible material, as we shall see.
“And last of all it was the most opportune, because, bearing in mind the necessities of the present day, above all it sought to meet the pastoral needs and, nourishing the flame of charity, it has made a great effort to reach not only the Christians still separated from communion with the Holy See, but also the whole human family. […] We decided moreover that all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed by all the faithful, for the glory of God and the dignity of the Church and for the tranquillity and peace of all men. […] Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, under the [seal of the] ring of the fisherman, Dec. 8, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the year 1965, the third year of our pontificate.” (In Spiritu Sancto, Walter M. Abbott, SJ, The Documents of Vatican II, pp. 738-9)
Paul VI established at the Council’s end that “all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed”. The 1983 Code of Canon Law distinguishes the matter of religious submission from infallible, definitive teaching.
“Can. 752. While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ’s faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.”
So, “religious submission” is given when the Pope, either alone or with his bishops in a council, does not intend to “proclaim doctrine by a definitive act”: therefore the matter of religious submission is not infallible, which is why it does not require “the assent of faith”.
“Can. 749. In virtue of his office the Supreme Pontiff is infallible in his teaching when, as chief Shepherd and Teacher of all Christ’s faithful, with the duty of strengthening his brethren in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals. The College of Bishops also possesses infallibility in its teaching when the Bishops, gathered together in an Ecumenical Council and exercising their magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals, definitively declare for the universal Church a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals.”
So, when Paul VI stated that “all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed”, he was making all the Council texts a matter of “religious submission” which is what is given to non-infallible matter. For the Council did not “proclaim definitively” any doctrine, “not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements”.
Paul VI again highlighted the non-infallible, non-definitive character of Vatican II in a general audience a year later.
“There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the Council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church’s infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility.” (General Audience, December 1, 1966, published in the L’Osservatore Romano 1/21/1966)
That is plain: Vatican II “avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the Church’s infallible teaching authority”; it “avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility”. The documents were intended to be of the ordinary but not universal magisterium, called the merely “authentic magisterium” in the 1983 Code.
Paul VI confirmed again in 1975 that Vatican II was pastoral and not an infallible dogmatic council.
“Differing from other Councils, this one was not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral.” (General Audience, August 6, 1975)
Vatican II was a uniquely non-infallible ecumenical council unlike any other. It was a vehicle of a revolution.
The Testimony of Other Council Participants
Other Council participants also witnessed to the non-infallible character of Vatican II.
John Cardinal Heenan of England stated as follows.
“It deliberately limited its own objectives. There were to be no specific definitions. Its purpose from the first was pastoral renewal within the Church and a fresh approach to the outside.” (Council and Clergy, 1966)
Bishop Butler of England publicly spoke to the matter twice.
“Not all teachings emanating from a pope or Ecumenical Council are infallible. There is no single proposition of Vatican II – except where it is citing previous infallible definitions – which is in itself infallible.” (The Tablet 26,11,1967)
“Vatican II gave us no new dogmatic definitions.” (The Tablet 2,3,1968)
Bishop Rudolf Graber wrote as follows.
“Since the Council was aiming primarily at a pastoral orientation and hence refrained from making dogmatically binding statements or disassociating itself, as previous Church assemblies have done, from errors and false doctrines by means of clear anathemas, many questions took on an opalescent ambivalence which provided a certain amount of justification for those who speak of the spirit of the Council.” (Athanasius and the Church of Our Times, 1974)
Bishop Thomas Morris expressed his relief on the matter.
“I was relieved when we were told that this Council was not aiming at defining or giving final statements on doctrine, because a statement of doctrine has to be very carefully formulated and I would have regarded the Council documents as tentative and likely to be reformed.” (Catholic World News 1,22,1997)
Hence, the participants of Vatican II were given to understand that it was not an infallible council.
The Testimony of John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger
The day after Pope John Paul II excommunicated Archbishop Lefebvre, he tried to justify himself.
“Indeed, the extent and depth of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council call for a renewed commitment to deeper study in order to reveal clearly the Council’s continuity with Tradition, especially in points of doctrine which, perhaps because they are new, have not yet been well understood by some sections of the Church.” (Ecclesia Dei, 1988)
John Paul II admitted the novelties of Vatican II and claims that they are “new points of doctrine.” But Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra at the First Vatican Council as follows.
“For the Holy Ghost was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or Deposit of Faith transmitted by the Apostles.” (Pastor Aeternus, chapter 4)
Pius IX defined that a Pope cannot make known new doctrine but John Paul II claimed that the Popes of Vatican II did just that. So it would appear that Vatican II, John Paul II et al. were heretical.
John Paul II admitted that Vatican II was pastoral, not doctrinal.
“Pope John conceived the Council as an eminently pastoral event.” (Angelus, October 27, 1985)
Cardinal Ratzinger also stated that Vatican II was not infallible.
“Certainly there is a mentality of narrow views that isolates Vatican II and which provoked this opposition. There are many accounts of it, which give the impression that from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II. […] The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council.” (Address to the Chilean Episcopal Conference, Il Sabato 1988)
The Fruits of the Second Vatican Council
Paul VI, who promulgated the Council, witness to its destructive fruits.
“The Church finds herself in an hour of anxiety, a disturbed period of self-criticism, or what would even better be called self-destruction. It is an interior upheaval, acute and complicated, which nobody expected after the Council. It is almost as if the Church were attacking itself. We looked forward to a flowering, a serene expansion of conceptions which matured in the great sessions of the Council. But one must notice above all the sorrowful aspect. It is as if the Church were destroying herself.” (Address to the Lombard Seminary at Rome, December 7, 1968)
Indeed, half the priests in the world simply walked out within a decade of the Council. The Church has been destroying itself ever since, and has adopted just about every harmful or scandalous policy it possibly could to hasten the destruction. Paul VI went as far as to state the following about the Church in the post-conciliar period.
“We have the impression that through some cracks in the wall the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God: it is 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.” (Sermon during the Mass for Sts. Peter & Paul in St. Peter’s Basilica, on the occasion of the ninth anniversary of his coronation, June 29, 1972)
“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.” (Address on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions, October 13, 1977)
But is that not what the Council was intended to do!
So we see that Vatican II was admitted to have been a disaster of immense proportions, initiating a process of destruction of the Church, even according to Paul VI who promulgated it – which of course begs the question of whether Archbishop Lefebvre was justly and prudently excommunicated.
The Roman Catholic Church capitulated to the Revolution of 1789 at the Second Vatican Council