According to a
recent CNS article on the SSPX and the Vatican, Cardinal Brandmuller
"There is a
huge difference between a great constitution," like the Vatican II
constitutions on the church, the liturgy and divine revelation, "and
simple declarations," like the Vatican II declarations on
Christian education and the mass media.
enough, the two most controversial documents" for the SSPX - those
on religious freedom and on relations with non-Christians - "do not
have a binding doctrinal content, so one can dialogue about them,"
the cardinal said.
Here we have yet
another prelate re-emphasizing the fact that the texts of the Second
Vatican Council are not binding. Though these admissions would have
been welcome even earlier, the growing number of such statements shows
that perhaps the wind is starting to blow in a different direction.
One can imagine how much differently the 1970’s and 1980’s may have
been if one did not have to pretend that Vatican II contained the same
doctrinal content as Nicea or Trent.
The 16 texts of
Vatican II are titled in different ways. Here are a few examples among
the most controversial texts: Some are called: Dogmatic Constitution (Lumen
Gentium), Decree (Unitatis Redintegratio) Declaration (Dignitatis
Humane; Nostra Aetate), and Pastoral Constitution (Gaudium
et Spes.)Obviously they do not have the same value and the same
level of importance. For instance, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
Gentium speaks about the nature and definition of the Church
whereas its equivalent, Gaudium et Spes, speaks of the Church
in its relation with the present world.
This being said,
clarity is still needed as to the clear theological category or
qualification of each group of texts. The documents of Vatican II, in
many cases, remain an enigma to theologians with no key to open them
and clarify things. We are in the midst of a fog with no way to
Brandmuller’s statement, however, needs to be nuanced. It is fair
enough to say that Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate
are the target of the SSPX and it is fair to say that Archbishop
Lefebvre refused to sign two of these “minor” documents (Dignitatis
Humanae and Gaudium et Spes). It is not so fair to give the
impression that, having reduced the value of the declarations, all
will be wonderful with the SSPX. Indeed, Cardinal Brandmuller almost
implies the ability to continue informal doctrinal criticisms by
insisting on the non-binding nature of these documents.
to Vatican II remain. To cite only one: in Lumen Gentium, we
object very strongly to collegiality as expressed in #22, and to the
famous phrase “subsistit in” (#8), which paves the way to the
ecumenism of Unitatis Redintegratio, a very ecumenical decree
to which our objections are known.
All the key
theologians involved with the neo-modernist movements (Rahner, Congar
and de Lubac) themselves admitted the extreme
importance of these changes which the SSPX objects to, whether they
belonged to constitutions or decrees or simply pastoral texts. For
instance, the seemingly minimal text of Gaudium et Spes was for
de Lubac the one which best revealed the spirit of the Council. The
declaration of Dignitatis Humanae was for Rahner one of the
most important achievements of Vatican II.
their time has come and gone. Has a more candid analysis of the post-conciliar
situation of the Church led those like Cardinal Brandmuller to admit
the possibility of discussing the texts of the Council? If he is not
the first to say so, let us at least hope he is not the last.
1 Published by Cindy Wooden on May 21,
2012 under the title, "Regarding SSPX, Vatican officials discuss
levels of church teaching".