THE JURIDICAL IMPACT OF THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, OR
HOW THE HIERARCHY LOST CONTROL
The Mystical Body of Christ is identical to the Roman Catholic Church. That is Catholic Dogma. The Roman Catholic Church has long been identical to the Vatican institution. (By Vatican institution I refer to the visible, hierarchical organization headed in Vatican City, ranging from its leader who had for all this time been the pope, clear through his cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, religious, all the way down to its lay members.) That is a mere historical observation. That is a historical situation which has historically been sustained and enforced by what amounts to Church Discipline, not Faith or Morals.
To illustrate how that is true, for example, suppose a pope and his cardinals were to sell off the facilities of Vatican City and go and establish his See somewhere else. While such a thing is gravely ill-advised and will almost certainly never happen quite that way, there is no law on the books which actually forbids it, or at least none which a pope does not have the authority to set aside, if he so wills.
However, were such a thing to happen, the people buying the facilities of Vatican City and moving in and taking over would quite properly be spoken of as the Vatican institution, which would therefore no longer be the same thing as the Roman Catholic Church. There would also have to be on public record a "bill of sale" of the properties.
Admittedly, this particular thing has not happened, but the bare possibility, no matter how remote it may be, establishes beyond all doubt that there is no dogmatic reason to identify the Roman Catholic Church with the Vatican institution. Nevertheless, that separation would have to take place formally and legally in order for the identities of the two to become distinct. Such a thing simply cannot be done secretly.
Some other obvious consequences of such a thing happening would be that the Vatican institution would lose Catholic authority along with the Charisms of infallibility and indefectibility. That authority and those Charisms wouldn't disappear, but only remain attached to the Roman Catholic Church. They have been historically attached to the Vatican institution only because, and insofar as, the Catholic Church and the Vatican institution have so long been identical.
It is an article of Faith that those Charisms (and all other details of the Catholic Church) can never be done away with while the world still exists, but it has always been possible for the Vatican establishment to relinquish its role as the custodian of those Charisms by legally signing their "title" to them over to another corporate entity. Why is this important? As will be demonstrated later this chapter, something somewhat of the sort has happened which would not have been possible were it a Dogmatic Truth that the Roman Catholic Church is always and eternally to be absolutely identical to the Vatican institution. Before I get there however, several other points must be clarified first.
The first point regards the Catholic Dogma that "There is no salvation outside the Church." However, salvation has never been identical to being Catholic. For one thing there exist Catholics, baptized, and knowing fully well what is right and wrong, yet choosing for whatever reason to live and die in a state of mortal sin. Not surprisingly, such Catholics go to Hell. Being Catholic is no guarantee of being saved, only persevering as a practicing Catholic clear to the end.
More difficult to understand is the fact of those who are not Catholic and yet go to Heaven. It has been defined as a Catholic doctrine that "there is no salvation outside the Church." If they are not Catholic they are outside the Church. That being the case, how is it that they can be saved? The Church, having wrestled with this problem for fully 1900+ years, has come to the following conclusions:
Water baptism is what ordinarily defines who is Catholic. All persons who are validly baptized belong to the Roman Catholic Church and are bound by its laws, even if they were baptized by Protestants and are Protestants themselves and as such are unaware of their membership in the Roman Catholic Church. Even though such Protestants have been made spiritual members of the Catholic Church they are still spoken of as "outside the Church" because they have rejected Catholic truths and disciplines which their baptism obliges them to accept, and therefore they are not members of the Catholic Church any longer. If, through invincible ignorance, their refusal to enter the Church does not spring from any culpability on their part, they are often spoken of as being united to the "soul" of the Church, but still outside the "body" of the Church.
Baptism comes in three basic forms, namely the normal way with water, by desire, or by blood (martyrdom). Baptism of Desire is the most difficult to define since there are many who think it is enough to wish to "do good" or even to "ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior" but these things, fine as they may be in some sense, do not qualify as a valid Baptism of Desire any more than wishing to take a bath would. The absolute bare minimum is a commitment to keep the precepts of the natural law that have been written by God in the hearts of all men, be prepared to obey God, and lead a virtuous and dutiful life, avoiding all voluntary fault.
It is theoretically possible that some small number of especially virtuous unbaptized pagans might be graced with a vision God gives which enables them to know what a baptism is and to desire it, and thereby gain a valid and explicit Baptism of Desire. Alternatively, if a soul should be genuinely seeking the truth and at the time of death have true and perfect contrition for its sins, that soul would have an implicit Baptism of Desire which is also valid. While the Church admits the likelihood that some souls have done this, it has never been dogmatically defined as to whether or not any particular soul has done it. In other words, no non-Catholic but sincere and well-meaning "saint" has ever been canonized by the Church. There are however a small number of canonized saints whose baptism is in their own blood.
Only those who are baptized either by water, blood, or desire can ever enter Heaven and see God, but it is reasonable to hope that other virtuous persons might be at least spared the positive misery of Hell even though they can never enter heaven and see God, because they might go to a place the Church calls Limbo. Theological opinion is less than universal on this point since the Church has never formally defined dogmatically whether or not such a "Limbo" exists. In any case, this last option would only apply to those who don't have the use of reason (such as small children or those with severe mental handicaps).
When the Church teaches that there is no salvation outside the Church, by "salvation" it is talking about the power to save, to confer sanctifying grace unto salvation. This power resides exclusively within the Church. Those who are outside the Church in the normal understanding of that expression yet saved are saved by virtue of their spiritual union to the Catholic Church and not by whatever rival religion they mistakenly hold instead. The Grace of salvation flows to that soul from Christ through the Roman Catholic Church. Also, all saved persons go to the Catholic Heaven; if in some case a Moslem or a Buddhist were somehow to obtain a valid Baptism of Desire, the Moslem would find no houris in Heaven and the Buddhist would not go to Nirvana.
While I am on this point, I must mention the strange case of Father Leonard Feeney. One hears of him rather frequently in the traditional Catholic community, either for or against and so therefore some introduction to the man and the controversy which surrounds him bears mention. Fr. Feeney was a priest in the Boston area who was one of the first to see the doctrine of Baptism of Desire being increasingly abused by certain "Catholic educators" in his area, including even his own Archbishop Cardinal Cushing, to excuse all sorts of false religion.
Fr. Feeney heroically fought against that heresy but in doing so he went just a little bit too far by rejecting the Catholic doctrines of Baptism of Desire and of Blood. While he was correct that the dogma "no salvation outside the Church" was soon to be compromised, and with devastating effects, he mistook the doctrines of Baptism of Blood and Desire as being themselves exceptions to that dogma, and he was afraid that they might serve as precedents for many more such "exceptions." So he took the drastic step of removing the doctrines of Baptisms of Blood and Desire from his own theological outlook. While it is vital to continue to fight the evil which he fought, one does not help the situation any by denying the Catholic doctrines of Baptism of Desire and Blood, nor by denying any other Catholic teachings. Heresy is a poor weapon to use against heresy.
I bring up that first point in order to clarify an important detail: "The set of those who are going to Heaven" are not and never have been the same as "The Mystical Body of Christ," "The Roman Catholic Church," nor "The Vatican institution." Within the scope of this book I am not concerned with "who does and who doesn't go to Heaven," (apart from the conclusion where I give some practical advice about that) but rather with the nature of the Visible Church as She survives this current bizarre and difficult period.
Most importantly, I ask the reader to keep in mind that when I later mention Catholics operating as such outside the Vatican institution I am most emphatically NOT referring to those saved by a Baptism of Blood, or Desire, or a Baptism by Protestants coupled with invincible ignorance! All real Catholics, as such, are simply "in" the Catholic Church regardless of whether or not they are in the Vatican institution, and conversely many persons now in the Vatican institution are outside the Church, although many are almost certainly still united to the soul of the Church and not the body, in a status similar to that of many Protestants.
The second point is the importance of understanding the nature of a "partial abdication," or a "partial relinquishment" of authority. On many levels and in many ways, the membership of the Vatican hierarchy have resigned, abdicated, and relinquished a great many of their former prerogatives and offices, collectively speaking. Once upon a time they exercised authority over what Catholics could read, who (or what parties) they could vote for, how Catholic nations are to be run with respect to the role of the Church in such states, and so forth. The Pope had direct and unilateral authority over the bishops, who in turn had the same over their priests and so on down to lay children in the parishes. That is no longer so. However it is not any of these relinquishments of power which I intend to speak of in this chapter. Far more insidiously, all bishops were invited and encouraged to vacate their sees, and a great many did, resulting in a partial, yet substantial, loss of authority on their part.
Such a thing has probably never happened before in all of human history and so people find it hard to picture. Furthermore, there is no precedent in all of theological study to account for or explain such a situation; this is something entirely new. Also, a certain tendency on the part of many to see everything in terms of black or white may also make it more difficult understand this concept. After all, in the minds of many traditional Catholics, either the Vatican institution is still the Roman Catholic Church or else it is not. Who ever heard of such a thing as its being partly so and partly not?
The problem with such an either/or choice is that no matter which way you go, you end up with a serious problem to solve from a legal, canonical, and theological standpoint. If you go with the idea that they are identical you confront yourself with a "Catholic Church" which has taught error and propagated evil. If you go with the idea that they are separate you confront yourself on the one hand with a Catholic Church which has inexplicably vanished or else seems to have no canonical basis for its existence and on the other an institution which has just as inexplicably found itself no longer protected from error.
A partial abdication means to relinquish some, but not all aspects of authority of one's office, in such manner that one is permitted to doubt whether or not they retain that office at all, and if so, then in what sense. For example, suppose what would happen if some pope were to wake up one fine day and suddenly declare and teach that he personally was infallible in Faith but not in Morals. Obviously in that case he would be relinquishing all moral authority, but what about his doctrinal authority? Unless the Church were to have already ruled on precisely that question, Catholics would be quite at liberty to disagree with each other as to whether or not that pope retains his doctrinal infallibility.
Another example would be if a bishop were to declare that all Catholics in his diocese (along with all of those already not Catholic but living in the geographical territory of his diocese) whose last names start with the letters M through Z are not Catholics while also declaring that all persons in his diocesan territory whose last names start with the letters A through L are Catholics even if they are obviously not.
Since his recognition of someone in his diocese being Catholic or not has absolutely no connection with whether or not that person is really a Catholic, what he really has done is relinquish jurisdiction over Catholics M through Z. It remains to be seen whether he retains jurisdiction over Catholics A through L and if so what kind. Let us even allow that he might even win a sort of non-Catholic "authority-like" power over the non-Catholics A through L by teaching that their other religions are just as good as Catholicism and by even joining the various hierarchies of the other religions held by the non-Catholics A through L in his diocese.
Catholics A through L might still be reasonably well managed by this bishop, but what about Catholics M through Z? Let us suppose that even some parish priests are M through Z. Should these priests stop saying mass or stop catering to the spiritual needs of Catholics M through Z? Obviously not, since the charge against him and them is false and unfounded, and furthermore one can reasonably expect that the next bishop to take over that diocese would reverse the bizarre legislation of his predecessor. One could even reasonably argue that Catholics A through L ought to join Catholics M through Z and have nothing to do with such a weird bishop.
The third point consists of a few general considerations regarding the Second Vatican Council itself. Much of what was written could have been written by a layman and no one would have challenged his orthodoxy. Coming from the level of Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops all gathered at an Ecumenical Council, the statements as given by far lack the required precision and care in their drafting that documents of such a status must have. If one were to read the rather schizoid documents which emerged, one would find a great many things in it which are quite orthodox and in some cases extremely well said. Perhaps about 60% of them (by volume) are absolutely fine and perfectly Catholic, or at least well within acceptable limits. The balance of them however is quite another story. At least some degree of interpretation is needed to reconcile them with Catholic teaching, and some points are so contrary as to be impossible to reconcile with Catholic teaching at all, unless one is willing to resort to some extremely complex and convoluted mental gymnastics, logic stretching, and special pleading.
The following statement best summarizes the quality of those documents: That in them which is good is not original; that in them which is original is not good. Guess which parts have been given legal force in the subsequent practice of the Vatican institution! The good parts proved to be nothing but padding with which the "Council Fathers" were lulled to sleep in order that they would not notice those other parts in which they were signing away their authority and partially resigning from their respective sees.
Some people might contend that it all must somehow be "good" since Vatican II was simply the twenty-first of a series of ecumenical councils the Church has held, of which it has to be said that they are all part of the Church's Infallible Magisterium and therefore absolutely right and perfectly good throughout, but this will not stand with regards to Vatican II.
Apart from John XXIII's unprecedented move of declaring this to be a "Pastoral" council, one which would define no dogmas and pronounce no anathemas, there is an even more basic, obvious, and irrefutable reason why the documents of Vatican II simply cannot be any part of the Infallible Magisterium of the Church: They are not a part of the Infallible Magisterium of the Church because they are not a part of the Magisterium of the Church, which in turn is because they are not Magisterial. The Catholic Church uses the terms "Magisterium" and "Magisterial" to refer to its authority to teach, or its teaching authority. In order to be Magisterial, a document must teach. The Vatican II documents do not teach.
The story of every Ecumenical Council of the Church from Nicea to Vatican I is always the same: One or more questions are raised, the council is convened, the Council Fathers argue the question(s) back and forth until they come to some consensus most in line with the history and tradition of the Church, the pope gives his formal approval to that consensus, and the consensus is promulgated in a document or group of documents which answer the question(s) definitively and authoritatively.
A key point here is that such documents promulgated under such circumstances are in absolutely no need of interpretation. They are clear, unambiguous, and teach the reader what the Church has to say about the specific question(s) raised. The documents of a council as promulgated are intended to be, themselves, the Church's interpretation of Her teaching as well as the last word on the subject(s) and therefore not subject to further interpretation or debate. "Rome has spoken; the cause is finished."
What a striking contrast between that and what happened at Vatican II! No particular questions had been raised since the previous council. Any questions which might potentially have been raised (e. g. Communism) were ruled out from the outset. Most of the bishops, cardinals, and other leaders in the Church who gathered in Vatican City back in the 1960s had no idea why a council was being convened. The documents it produced answered no questions and solved no problems. Indeed, the very reverse happened: Those there then who read those documents (namely the Council Fathers themselves who signed them) might have started out as Catholics, but by the time they were done reading them (and signing them), and thereby having committed themselves to everything in them, they ended up not knowing what to believe anymore.
The documents, owing to their ambiguous and even heterodox or heretical implications, do not stand on their own but are in dire need of further interpretation. The problem here is "Which interpretation do we go by, the almost Catholic interpretation Cardinals Ratzinger, Gagnon, Stickler, or Oddi give them, or the utterly uncatholic interpretation given to them by Cardinals Noe, Villot, Bernardin, or Mahoney?" The documents themselves provide absolutely no basis for preferring one interpretation over the other: They don't teach. With the documents of Vatican II, one could properly say "[Modernist] 'Rome' has spoken; can anyone even make out what they said?" "If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who will rise to battle?" - 1 Corinthians 14:8
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the documents of Vatican II (or some of them anyway, as shall soon be explained) are official documents of the Roman Catholic Church and as such carry with them a certain legal and disciplinary force, and therefore have a certain juridical impact. The crucial fact about this "certain juridical impact" is that its result is not what the Council Fathers thought, intended, wanted, nor expected, but something else entirely, something unforeseen. Just as computer programs are famous for having "bugs" in them which perennially cause unexpected problems, the Council documents also have a certain "bug" in them which I am about to point out.
To be properly understood, the Council must be divided into three phases, roughly corresponding to the 1963, 1964, and 1965 sessions. (The 1962 session generated no documents.) It is the middle phase which is by far the most crucial since it is in that 1964 session that the Council Fathers and Pope Paul VI together jointly signed away a crucial portion of their authority and thereby decreed into existence a new Vatican institution detached (in law) from the Roman Catholic Church.
In the first phase (1963), only two documents were promulgated and both of them merely established committees in order to carry out their directives. The less important of these did nothing more than set up a committee to "study the problem of social communication and the media" and for all I know they may very well still be off somewhere doing just that. Perhaps every once in a while they issue some public "statement" which nobody ever pays any attention to anyway. The more important of these is the Constitution on the Liturgy, which set up a committee to "reform" the Liturgy, and then provided rather detailed guidelines as to what sort of reformed liturgy the committee was meant to come up with. Since that committee thus set up has yet to come up with any liturgy (Catholic or otherwise) which conforms to those guidelines, none of the monstrosities they have come up with (such as their new "Mass" I will describe next chapter) could possibly be the object of any obligation generated by the Council.
As an interesting aside here, a small independent group which calls itself "Adoremus" has attempted to draft a Mass which is in accordance with those guidelines. While it may be instructive to see an example of the sort of ceremony the duly appointed committee might have created had they more closely followed the mandates of the Council, the fact remains that Adoremus is not that committee so established by the Council, but merely some other group of people just coming along with no authority, and so therefore nothing they create could ever bind the faithful in conscience.
The third phase (1965) comes after this Great Detachment, and therefore can only be described as official documents of the new Vatican institution, but not of the Roman Catholic Church. By virtue of that fact, these documents could not have been infallible, even if they were to have "taught" anything (which they didn't). Before one can really understand the nature and purpose of the documents of the third phase, it is necessary to know and understand just exactly what happened in that crucial second phase, and so I will return to that shortly.
The fourth and last point concerns the application of any formal document of legal or disciplinary force. People often have the mistaken notion that a law, a canon, or a decree, etc. should be "interpreted" in the light of its author. Certainly, there have been many unfortunate results from such documents saying something other than what was intended owing to such ridiculous things as typographical errors, and which nevertheless had to be applied as written and not as intended.
The Church always "interprets" its official documents (e. g. Canons, Decrees, Constitutions, the Code of Canon Law) in no way but as literally stated. That is because if one gets away from that into the world of the intention of the author, or "what's best for everyone now," or anything else, one ends up entering a very murky, spooky territory of having to second-guess the intentions of a person who typically is not available for comment, or of having to predict precisely what the consequences or side-effects of a certain implementation of a Law might be. If a Law as written fails to function well in some particular case, the procedure is to revise the Law so that it will handle the new situation properly.
A few paragraphs ago, I stated that the documents of the Second Vatican Council don't teach. That does not mean that nothing in them can be understood or taken at face value. Many of the good portions state their meaning quite clearly and unambiguously. It's just that everything they say has already been stated in terms every bit as clear by some previous Magisterial document of the Church. An example of that happening could go as follows:
A member of the board of some club could submit a document to the president of the board and the rest of the board to the effect that "Gobbledygook. Gobbledygook. The sky is blue. Gobbledygook. I quit. Gobbledygook." The gobbledygook's can be interpreted any way as suits one's fancy and therefore mean nothing, the sky being blue is simply an unremarkable statement of fact typical of the perfectly orthodox statements found scattered throughout the documents of Vatican II and therefore of no practical significance or implications, and so therefore the only part that matters is the part which says "I quit."
If the president accepts this document for consideration and the board approves of it in a formal vote, said document becomes yet another official document of that club. However its only real consequence is to effect the resignation of that member.
Even if the "I quit" portion is written in such complex legalese that neither the person who submitted it, the president of the board who accepted it, nor the board members who voted for its approval, were to have understood it, as long as there is no other legal interpretation it has legal force and that member has resigned from the board. Furthermore, if a board member questions the new document asking "Might this not imply the resignation of So-and-so?" and everyone else (president included) says "We don't care about that; we think the document should stand as written," then its legal force is only all the more binding, and probably couldn't be argued away in the courts.
Another example: If a man signs a document with which he gives his house over to a con artist, no matter how complex and confusing the legalese in it may be, his house now belongs to that con artist. It won't do him any good to sit on top of what was once his house with a gun and attempt to shoot anyone who tries to take it from him. He signed it away; it's no longer his. Perhaps if he fights it out in the courts he might win it back, but not until and unless the courts should so rule in his favor and invalidate the said document.
With all of the foregoing four points in mind, we are now in a position to address the crucial statement within the 1964 documents of the Second Vatican Council. In the interest of sound scholarship and in order to avoid any charge of taking something out of context, I present the chief one of the relevant paragraphs in full, along with a short discussion of its context.
This is the sole Church of Christ which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Savior, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (Jn. 21:17), commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it (cf. Matt. 28:18, etc.), and which he raised up for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), Chapter I, section 8, second paragraph, translated by Fr. Colman O'Neill, O. P., Austin Flannery, O. P. General Editor, 1988 Revised Edition)
This quote comes after a long, detailed, and admittedly rather admirable description of the Catholic Church. But then there comes this paragraph in which the Catholic Church, having been so well described, is said to "subsist in" the "Catholic Church" (Emphasis mine). Let's take a good hard look at what that language means, precisely. Classically, and correctly, it had long been the case that the Church, so admirably described, simply is the Roman Catholic Church. Saying "subsists in" instead of "is" conveys a different message. To subsist basically means to exist, or persist. It is the use of the word "in," grammatically introduced by the word "subsists," which carries with it an implicit denial of identity. To state that "a thing is (exists, or subsists) in a thing," is to imply that the first thing is not the same thing as the second thing.
Had the phrase used at that point been "subsists as," it would have been rendered harmless, since identity would still be implied. But "subsists in," like "susbists on" (as for example one could properly say that John the Baptist "subsisted on" locusts and wild honey, and again no one would claim that John the Baptist was one and the same as these foods - i. e. he was not eating himself), amounts to a declaration of distinction. One could say that a man "subsists in" a house, but obviously the man is not the house and the house is not the man.
The "man subsisting in the house" illustration is not a good one to use here however since it does not approximate the current situation. No part of the man comprises any part of the house, and furthermore, that relationship is non-symmetrical. The house does not subsist in the man. When applied to groups of individual persons, be such groups the Church, the Rotary Club, the Jewish Community, or all of humanity at large taken as a whole, to say that one subsists in the other implies an intersection between the two groups. If group A of persons subsists in group B of persons, then at least some members of group A must also be members of group B. However, since the groups are different, there can be members of group A who do not subsist in group B and vice versa. In this case, there would necessarily be persons comprising a part of group A who themselves also comprise a part of group B. Furthermore, such a relationship is symmetrical. Group A subsists in group B, so therefore group B subsists in group A.
One here (and as it turns out, throughout all the Vatican II documents) has to judge from context just what is referred to by each instance of the phrase "Catholic Church." In some cases in these documents, it is clearly a reference to the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church of Christ, the visible and eternal Roman Catholic Church, "entrusted to Peter's pastoral care." However in other instances such as the one in this quote, it clearly refers to an entity which is distinct from that Church. This distinct other entity, now newly created and "governed" by the men who had formerly served as "Peter" and "the bishops in union with him," had no distinct name for itself with which to set it apart from the Roman Catholic Church. For clarity and convenience of nomenclature in this book, I have referred to that distinct entity as "the Vatican institution."
The intent of those who used the phrase "subsists in" where the word "is" belonged was to have a "Catholic Church," in fact this new Vatican institution, that could affirm other (rival) religious organizations to be sources of Divine Grace. At the Council, many conservative fathers intervened to have that passage (and others like it) corrected, but they were simply outvoted. The question was officially raised in an intervention, and then simply ignored by a room full of people who simply wanted to get it over and done with so they could move on to other things and return home, rather than seriously consider opening the document for further wrangling yet one more time.
The key operative phrase in this quote is "subsists in." Having one thing merely "subsist in" another implies that, while having an overlap, connection, or relationship between the two, there may now be portions of each which do not belong to the other. Let us reiterate and explore this "subsistence" of one group of persons in another in more detail: If a club were to state in its constitution that "This club is the Rotary Club," it is claiming identity with the Rotary Club. As such, they would be bound by its rules. If that club's constitution states that "This club subsists as the Rotary Club," identity is still implied. But if that constitution reads, "This club subsists in the Rotary Club," that means that "This club" is not the Rotary club, but some other club which has some Rotarians as members. Such a club, distinct from the Rotary Club, need not be held bound to the rules of the Rotary Club. Where identity between "This club" and the Rotary Club necessarily implies that to be inside one is to be inside the other, and to be outside one is to be outside the other, a relationship of one club merely "subsisting in" the other implies no such connection, only that some persons would be members of both clubs.
Therefore, where identity implies that there are only two categories of people, namely Rotarians (who are all members of "This club") and non-Rotarians (none of whom are members of "This club"), a relationship of "subsisting in" implies the possible existence of two more categories, namely Rotarians who are not members of "This club" and non-Rotarians who are members of "This club." The fact that this document was mandating that some Catholic priests and bishops could be recognized as truly Catholic (and therefore in union with Rome) while being outside the institution ruled by Paul VI and his successors is further clarified in that quote where it states that "many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its [the "Catholic Church's," or rather, the Vatican institution's] visible confines."
That would contradict (if the Catholic Church were still identical to the Vatican institution) the De fide teaching that all Grace (including sanctification and truth) comes from Christ to mankind through the Roman Catholic Church, that is, by means of priests and bishops in union with the Successor of Peter. By saying that a part of the source of sanctification and truth (i. e. some percentage of the truly Catholic priests and bishops in union with the Successor of Peter) is outside the Vatican institution, what they have really said is that part of the Roman Catholic Church is outside the Vatican institution.
That conciliar statement, from what is called a "Dogmatic Constitution" of the Church (not truly Dogmatic since the entire Council was purely disciplinary and juridical), states quite clearly and unequivocally that the Roman Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church of Christ, the visible and eternal Church headed by the pope, and against which the gates of Hell would not prevail, now only "subsists in" the Vatican institution. The two entities are now made distinct, overlapping but no longer identical. As an interesting aside, the converse is also true, namely that the Vatican institution subsists in the Catholic Church. The symmetry is exact; each has a portion which is in the other and another portion which is outside the other.
There are Roman Catholics in communion with the Vatican institution and there are Roman Catholics who are not in communion with the Vatican institution. There are non-Catholics who are in communion with the Vatican institution (namely those who adhere to a new religion I will talk about in the next chapter) and there are non-Catholics who are not in communion with the Vatican institution (Moslems, Buddhists, Animists, Atheists, Satanists, Hindus, Jews, Protestant Fundamentalists, etc.). As I have just shown, it is the Second Vatican Council itself which has decreed and "dogmatically constituted" such a state of affairs!
Such a distinction also decrees into existence what can only be described as the "Great Detachment," a kind of Roman Schism. By its own formal declaration here (which has legal force of law), the Vatican institution is not the Roman Catholic Church any more. It therefore cannot be held bound to the rules of the Catholic Church. Paul VI and the members of the hierarchy signed a formal document, a "Constitution," which effectively states that they are not answerable to the teachings, doctrines, precepts, or disciplines of their Catholic predecessors. This is no less schismatic than it was for King Henry VIII of England to declare in 1534 that he was not answerable to the teachings, doctrines, precepts, or disciplines of the Pope in Rome. The only difference is that where the boundaries of the English Schism were geographical, separating England from Rome, the boundaries of the Roman Schism are in time, separating the original Vatican institution which is always to be the Roman Catholic Church (even if it comes to be no longer "instituted" in Vatican City) from this new Vatican institution which, as defined with the promulgation of Lumen Gentium, is not to be identified with the Roman Catholic Church.
By defining into existence a new Vatican institution which merely subsists in the Church, and themselves collectively as being its new officers and leadership, this Constitution created a doppelgänger office for each member of the Vatican hierarchy. Where before each official of the Church only had one job, they now had two. Since few had the personal stamina to do the work of two different persons, and one job increasingly at odds with the other job, most had to choose between continuing to function within their previous office as bishops of the Church, or else functioning within their new office as local leaders within this newly created Vatican institution, effectively resigning their former post by acceptance and entry into their new offices. Needless to say, the heroes of this account are those few bishops who devoted the brunt of their efforts to their original posts as bishops of the Catholic Church, and also their lawful, if not regular, successors.
The Catholic Church cannot be changed because She is the Mystical Body of Him who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), but the Vatican institution did get quite substantially changed by Vatican II and many other official actions of its leadership in the years following. Such a thing only became possible when the two were detached from each other in Law. That had the effect of making the Vatican institution at most merely like a secular power, political party or faction, or club. Whatever "authority" they can be properly said to wield is strictly that of any merely human and secular authority.
The proper response or attitude regarding the Vatican institution is neither allegiance ("I must join it or else I am out of the Church") nor hostility ("It is evil; I must have nothing to do with it") but indifference. "I am going to go about my Catholic business. The Vatican institution is free to accept that or not; for my own sake, I honestly don't care which choice they make about me." When the Vatican institution, in the person of those who made up its entire hierarchy and leadership, chose to become indifferent as to what is Catholic and what is not, that was the cue for Catholics to become indifferent as to what is or is not approved by the Vatican institution.
Creating such a distinction between the Catholic Church and the Vatican institution by signing those documents effected a partial abdication. Like that bishop in the above example who relinquished jurisdiction over Catholics M through Z, the leaders of the Vatican institution relinquished jurisdiction over those Catholics who remain faithful to the Roman Catholic Church while functioning outside the Vatican institution's now questionable hierarchical structures.
Important to note is the distinction between "being in the Catholic Church independent of being in the Vatican institution" and "being in a state of Grace." Some of those in the non-Catholic portion of the Vatican institution, even though they are materially "ex-Catholics" are not formally so (owing to invincible ignorance) and therefore not in a state of sin, but they are outside the Church. Such ones are honestly not conscious of having left the Church. By the same token, it is reasonable to expect that there are some "tares" among the "wheat" of the Roman Catholic Church, both the parts inside and the parts outside the Vatican institution, although it must be pointed out that the proportion of "tares" within the Catholic Church is dramatically lower than it has ever been in many centuries.
A big question which now needs to be asked is "What are we to make of the laws and decrees of the Vatican institution?" In particular, are they binding on the Catholic Church? Some things they promulgate are practically incompatible with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Obviously, anything promulgated which is contrary to Catholicism must be ignored. For example, if a bishop orders all of the married couples in his diocese to go on the Pill or use condoms, the Catholic couples must disobey their bishop and obey Catholic teaching. Any Catholic should be able to figure that one out. That is not the difficult case.
Somewhat more tricky are those cases in which certain laws and decrees of the Vatican institution contradict only more subtle teachings of the Church that the typical layman cannot be expected to be familiar with. In this has lived the gradualism with which the new Vatican institution has subtly and insidiously introduced further and further aberrations, gradually and quietly transferring souls out of the Church, and reducing that intersection between itself and the real Catholic Church from something almost its whole size to only the barest fraction thereof.
What is the difficult case is those orders given which are compatible with the Church's teaching. Do we allow the reasonable commands of the Vatican hierarchy to be binding on Catholics as well? Can there exist such a thing as a part-time bishop or pope? If such a thing does exist, how does one determine which times belong to their functioning as a Catholic bishop or pope and which times do not? These are real and legitimate questions put before the Church and many truly qualified, first rate, theologians have argued quite persuasively for many sides of this question.
The Church does not know the answer to this question because we are still waiting for a pope to come along who will hand down a decision. Therefore it is quite proper that I also do not claim to know the answer to this difficult question. One thing I do know is that the pope we do get this answer from cannot be John Paul II because he is one of those under suspicion and therefore not in a position to exonerate himself, nor those three predecessors of his who are also under the same (or similar) suspicion. For reasons which will become clearer in later chapters, a small but growing contingent of faithful Catholics have come to be of the opinion that the conciliar and post-conciliar popes (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II as of this writing) have so seriously failed to function as Catholic popes that they ought not bear the title of pope at all.
In the interest of speaking to, for, and on behalf of all true Catholics, I shall use the phrase "reliable popes" to refer to all popes from Peter to Pius XII, excepting only such popes as have been judged "unreliable" by later popes within that sequence. By the phrase "reliable pope," I refer only to that pope's doctrinal trustworthiness. Some few whom I must refer to as reliable popes would be most charitably described as scoundrels owing to the nature of their private lives, but at least God guarded their public teaching so as to keep it authentically Christ's. They are "reliable" to the extent that the Church has ever since relied upon their dogmatic teachings.
A good example of an unreliable pope would be Pope Honorius I. In 634, Honorius, in response to a query by Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, made an ambiguous statement which opened the door for a heresy known as "Monothelitism," which denies that Christ had a human will. Pope Leo II (the Great) confirmed the conclusion of the Third Council of Constantinople to the effect that Honorius I was "incapable of enlightening this apostolic Church by the doctrine of Apostolic Tradition." Therefore, Pope Honorius I's ambiguous declaration cannot be authoritatively quoted against the more definitive and precise declarations of reliable popes. Even whatever perfectly good things he might have said on any number of other occasions fail to balance this conclusion of the Church that he was unreliable.
Any and all Catholics with a right to the title of "Catholic" MUST accept all reliable popes as legitimate authority within the Church. However, the leaders of the Vatican institution from John XXIII to John Paul II (as of this writing) have not proven to be "reliable popes." Either they are unreliable popes (on par with Pope Honorius I), or else they are not popes at all. It is even possible that some will be in one category and others in the other. I leave it to the Church, in the person of the next truly Catholic and reliable pope or any council he convenes for this purpose, to decide that matter. I shall call those last four "doubtful popes."
One position which is truly untenable is to regard the four doubtful popes as being reliable popes who can safely be followed blindly the way one with one's eyes closed could have safely followed any of the many reliable popes who preceded them. That is because their leadership is of the Vatican institution and not necessarily of the Roman Catholic Church. If the leader of the Vatican institution makes an official teaching or action, that teaching or action cannot be binding on those Roman Catholics outside the Vatican institution, and therefore cannot be construed as teaching or ruling the entire Church. Remember also, the Charisms of infallibility and indefectibility rest upon the Roman Catholic Church but NOT necessarily upon the Vatican institution.
That fact has an astonishing impact on the papacy of the last three doubtful popes. In supporting (in the case of the John Paul's) or even in signing (in the case of Paul VI) the documents of Vatican II they admit to a lack of authority or jurisdiction over part of the Catholic Church which is the source of grace. They are therefore, in that action, relinquishing their universal sovereignty. With that goes their infallibility, since a teaching must be not only in Faith or Morals, but be authoritatively applied to the entire Church. Any bishop whose jurisdiction is anything short of universal (i. e. any bishop other than the pope) lacks the authority to address the entire Church and for that reason is incapable of proclaiming any teaching infallibly. In 1964, Vatican II deprived the leader of the Vatican institution of universal jurisdiction and therefore of the charism of infallibility. The only way such a leader might possibly teach infallibly would be to do so completely outside the parameters set by Vatican II, that is, as if the Council simply did not exist.
In a strangely parallel mirror reflection of what happened in England when most members of the "Church in England" defected to the schismatic (and soon to be heretical as well) "Church of England," the "Bishop of Rome" reduced himself to being merely a presiding "Bishop in Rome." All Catholics must be subject to the pope, but not all Catholics need be subject to the Vatican leadership; Vatican II itself has so decreed.
It was somewhere in or about that time frame that Paul VI gave away the Papal Tiara, an action which itself was merely symbolic of the fact that he had relinquished his papal authority. Few Catholics have ever read the Vatican II documents; fewer still have ever reflected upon their true meaning, but even the simplest Catholic could read the symbolic meaning of that action.
A fair question to ask is, "Where have the authority, marks, and Charisms of the Catholic Church gone; to whom have they been transferred?" The answer is surprisingly simple: It can only go to Catholics. Since no specific Catholic priests or bishops have been named in the Vatican II documents as the sole lawful recipients of all that, it therefore goes to all of those priests and bishops who hold and teach the Catholic Faith, whoever and wherever they might be! They are the ones who have taken the Anti-Modernist Oath as instituted by Pope Saint Pius X in 1910 and who live by it, adhering to, and teaching, the entire magisterium of the Church as promulgated by the reliable popes and councils. It is these priests and bishops of whom more will be said in later chapters.
The doubtful popes can and have said many fine and Catholic things, but regrettably one is permitted to doubt whether or not they exercise Catholic authority even when they do. Even when they intend to do the right and Catholic thing their authority to do so has been greatly curtailed. John Paul II can and has rightly condemned abortion, and yet within the structures of the Vatican institution even he lacks the authority to shut down "Catholics for Pro-Choice," to everyone's regret. Also, because of their detachment from the Catholic Church, the Charism of Infallibility no longer rests upon them. This makes it at least theoretically possible for them to promulgate heresy in the name of their own authority.
Even if one allows that they may be part-time popes, all that means is that they have a "part-time infallibility," which is the same as not having infallibility at all. In the absence of any clear and objective delineation as to which periods are portions of the "part-time" and which are not, "part-time infallibility," like part-time reliability, is the same as fallibility or unreliability. Perhaps the next reliable pope, if he finds that any of these doubtful popes were in fact popes of the Roman Catholic Church, might designate certain orthodox statements they have made as belonging to those periods of "part-time infallibility."
A key point of the case being made here is that I am not judging individuals. One could quite reasonably make the case for many in the present Vatican hierarchy (including John Paul II himself) to be the moral superiors of some of their Catholic equivalents of centuries gone by. What ruins them is their adherence to Vatican II, particularly the Vatican II schema Lumen Gentium in which the official detachment of the Vatican institution from the Catholic Church was decreed. That adherence places them each at least partly outside the visible structures of the Roman Catholic Church, and in many cases entirely outside those structures (even while retaining full membership in the Vatican institution), and that is what enables them, like so many other well-meaning religious teachers who are outside the visible unity of the Church, to descend into heresy and schism and to promulgate error.
That is also why the documents from the third phase of the Second Vatican Council were free to contain error. The actual (if not intended) result of these documents was to put a certain distance between the Vatican institution and the Roman Catholic Church. Although formally and legally detached from each other, the Vatican institution and the Roman Catholic Church were still substantially the same when the 1964 session of the Council closed. By voting for the third phase documents, and particularly the one on Religious Liberty which is everything short of being explicitly heretical, the bishops and cardinals (and pope?) who did so thereby removed themselves entirely from the Roman Catholic Church. Only Marcel Lefebvre and 73 other faithful Roman Catholic bishops voted against the schema on Religious Liberty. All the rest embraced heresy, something they were free to do only now that they were simply leaders of an organization which is no longer identical to the Roman Catholic Church.
The first document of the third phase was the infamous schema on the Episcopacy, in which the new structure of "collegiality" was imposed. The practical effect of this document was to reduce in rank the leader of the Vatican institution from Monarch or King to that of mere President. In the Catholic Church, the authority of the pope is final; his authority surpasses the authority of everyone else put together. Within the scope of the Vatican institution, according to this document, even though the "pope" still retains more authority than any particular "bishop," he can now be outvoted by any Congress of his "bishops." Where before he was "Monarch," now he becomes "President." The limitations, strictures and partial loss of jurisdiction (namely over those Catholics outside the Vatican institution) so severely constrain the Leader of the Vatican institution that if he is to function as a pope at all, he must do so outside the normal channels established and defined by Vatican II. Since the documents of the third phase are official documents of the Vatican institution, but not of the Church, they need not be further discussed here.
Whether one filters the words and official actions of the Vatican leadership for orthodoxy or rules them out completely as antipopes may not matter much until the Church rules on that, but it is essential that the test by which any statement / teaching / official action / papal candidate is either accepted or rejected MUST be conformance to the Universal and Historic Magisterium of the Church as promulgated by the reliable popes, the twenty Ecumenical and Dogmatic Councils of the Church from Nicea to Vatican I, by all standard and approved catechisms prior to the Second Vatican Council, and the clear teaching and practice of the Church as expounded upon by the doctors of the Church and documented in Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. Any other standard is the mark of a non-Catholic.
One other point which must be made is that the Catholic Church did not cease to be a visible Church. Rather, what happened is that where we once had one visible Church, we now have two visible Churches (that is, insofar as the Vatican institution as it exists now, detached from the Roman Catholic Church, has any right to the title of "Church" at all). The main problem people often have in recognizing the visible Roman Catholic Church is that their eyes have been fixated on the visible Vatican institution as though it were still the Catholic Church. Train your eyes to be simply oblivious to the Vatican institution, and once your vision adjusts you will see the true, visible, Roman Catholic Church standing out in sharp relief, rather like those visual puzzles which look like a mess with the unaided eye but which have a clear picture of something specific when viewed through a colored filter.
The visible structures of the Catholic Church no longer coincide with the visible structures of the Vatican institution. Due to their activity being at least primarily or in many cases exclusively devoted to running the Vatican institution, the visible Catholic hierarchy has been gutted, many members having entirely deserted their sees, and the rest would be most charitably described as seeing to the Catholic needs of their dioceses on at most a part-time basis. What very few truly and consistently Catholic bishops there are have not as yet been assigned dioceses and have no regular jurisdiction, but spread thin as they are, they do their best to see to the Catholic episcopal needs of many of the thousands of remaining Catholic parishes worldwide. Even if the entire membership of the Church hierarchy were to be destroyed (for example by the detonation of a nuclear bomb in the middle of a council), the hierarchical structure of the Church remains a reality mandated by Christ Himself. The Church is a great deal smaller than before, but like Gideon's valiant 300 men, She is only all the more powerful and all the more ready to take on all the evils of the World.
While one would feel much better having the entire hierarchy intact so as to enforce the existing teaching and to answer the questions which have been raised by the current crisis, the fact is that God Himself has been standing in that gap. All one has to do is look in on any of the thousands of traditional parishes and Mass centers all around the world and one can only be amazed by what an incredibly good job God does at this. These parishes overflow with such Graces and Virtues as only God through His Church could ever possibly provide. Just as in any chain of command, if an officer in that chain of command goes AWOL, the next ranking officer fills in for him, and life goes on only slightly disturbed.
The final proof of any "independent" priest's unity with Eternal Rome is the fact that at all times he conducts himself as if he were answerable to a truly Roman Catholic hierarchy. The fact that such a hierarchy might be absent for a very long time is no different than in the old days when any Catholic priest would go for months or even years between visits from his diocesan bishop. The holy priest just functions as if he knows he could be visited at any time. Just because the Catholic hierarchy may not be present at a specific time or place does not preclude one from being in union with that hierarchy.
Even questions which might be something of a bone of contention between bishops do not pose a real problem to church unity since the parties of each side are united in submission to the pope. One day the question will be put to the pope and he will answer it and both sides will accept that judgment. Like missionaries of rival religious orders with differing approaches to their work, having to go all the way back to Rome in order to settle their differences (such as the Jesuits and Dominicans as they evangelized China), we too must travel a long and difficult way to visit the next reliable Catholic pope in order to settle our differences. The only way in which today differs from the old days is that the large distance was merely geographical then, but now it is a travel through time as we journey towards the time of the next reliable Catholic pope at a rate of sixty minutes per hour.
Let me now dispel one more myth. While it is true that we often hear the phrase "independent Catholic priest," even from these priests themselves and even in reference to themselves, the fact is that no Roman Catholic priest is ever truly "independent." All we can ever validly mean by that is that the priest has no current relationship with the Vatican institution, or else in addition, that neither is that priest currently a member of any of the traditional Roman Catholic priestly orders (such as I will introduce in the chapters which follow). The fact is that all Roman Catholic priests are members of the visible and hierarchical Roman Catholic Church regardless of whether they may or may not be members in good standing, or at all, of the Republican party, the National Rifle Association, the Coalition for Literacy, the Rushlight Club, or most pointedly, the Vatican institution.
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