Mueller, who is heading the Congregation of the Faith, made some
remarks published in L’Osservatore Romano on November 29th, on
the occasion of the publication of the 7th volume of the “Opera
omnia of Joseph Ratzinger”, which expounds the now-Pope Benedict
XVI’s impact during the Second Vatican Council. During this
presentation, the man who is the pope’s right arm made a rather
forceful declaration in support of his superior regarding the
‘hermeneutic of the reform in continuity’:
interpretation is the only one possible according to the principles
of Catholic theology, in consideration of the indissoluble link
between Sacred Scripture, the complete and integral Tradition and
the Magisterium, whose highest expression is the Council presided
over by the Successor of St. Peter as Head of the visible Church.
Outside this sole orthodox interpretation unfortunately exists a
heretical interpretation, that is, a hermeneutic of rupture, (found)
both on the progressive front and on the traditionalist one. Both
agree on refusing the Council; the progressives in their wanting to
leave it behind, as if it were a season to abandon in order to get
to another church, and the traditionalists in their not wanting to
get there, as if it was the winter of Catholicity.
means permanent correspondence with the origin, not an adaption of
whatever has been, which also can lead the wrong way. The often
quoted term aggiornamento (updating) does not mean the
secularization of the faith, which would lead to its dissolution,
but rather making present the message of Jesus Christ. This making
present is the reform necessary for every era in constant fidelity
to the whole Christ…
Council has declared that, “following the tracks of the Councils
of Trent and Vatican I, it intends to propose the genuine doctrine
on the divine Revelation and its transmission, so that by the
message of salvation the entire world listening believes, believing
hopes, hoping loves” (dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum1).
The Council does not want to announce some other faith but, in
continuity with the previous ones, it means to make it present.
Dei Verbum again (#8): “This tradition which comes from the
Apostles developed in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit.”
This produces a “growth in the understanding of the realities and
the words which have been handed down” and is obtained by
contemplation, study and “preaching of those who have received
through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the
centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward
toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach
their complete fulfillment in her.”
Needless to say,
this declaration of Archbishop Mueller is not an official statement
coming in the extraordinary form of, say, a decree or an anathema.
Yet, this statement deserves some attention because it is the faithful
echo of Pope Benedict XVI’s thesis of the hermeneutic of continuity,
and because of his position in the Church today at the head of the
Congregation of the Faith leading the discussions with the SSPX.
It is not the
first time that Rome is ‘using’ the SSPX to counterbalance the
arch-modernists who want to be ahead of the time and want the
revolution of the revolution. It is less usual and
rather ironic for the SSPX to be called ‘heretical’ on a par with
the avant-garde modernists who reject Vatican II as being
outdated. During the doctrinal discussions, as
explained by Bishop Fellay, the Roman theologians accused us of having
a Protestant attitude because we followed our own judgment against the
Church Magisterium, just as we have asserted that
they have neo-modernist mentality!
No doubt, the
Archbishop Mueller's statements do greatly clarify the positions in as
much as he basically invokes the harmonious continuity of the entire
Deposit of the Faith as a sure symptom of orthodoxy.
We cannot be more in agreement with this
and yet, here is where Vatican II fails the test in the mind of
all traditionalist theologians whose front is getting wider as years
go by. After 50 years of implementation of the Council, which have
seen the “auto-destruction of the Church” (as aptly spoken by
Pope Paul VI) and the virtual agony of Christ’s Spouse, it may be high
time to have a close check-up on the validity of the main conciliar
doctrinal discussions between Rome and the SSPX, it was clear that the
main bone of contention touched on the meaning of Tradition and
Magisterium. Here, Archbishop Mueller is kind enough to state clearly
the difficulty in the following syllogism:
Whoever does not accept the integral magisterium of the Church,
including Vatican II, is heretical.
the SSPX refuses Vatican II, part of the integral Church teaching.
Therefore, the SSPX is heretical.
It is clear that
it will take a little explaining before we sort out the grain from the
chaff in this simplistic argument, and we shall do so as a formal
reply. Prior to this, we need to stress that, if Bishop Fellay and his
priestly society are keeping in touch with the Roman authorities, it
is because they believe in Rome, in the Church Magisterium and in
papal infallibility. They believe that, outside of Rome, there is no
ultimate solution to the gridlock in which the Church and,
incidentally, the Society of St. Pius X are found. Unlike the
sedevacantist instinct of fleeing away from modernist Rome as if it
were already damned and cast off by Christ, having lost its pontifical
power, we believe that, as the problem comes from the head, the
solution can be found only in the head.
This is the
mystery of the Church which as Christ is both divine and human,
as explained by Bishop Fellay recently:
This is the
mystery of the Cross. When Jesus is on the Cross, the Faith obliges
us to profess that He is God, that He is All-Powerful, that He is
eternal and immortal. He cannot die; He cannot suffer. God is
infinitely perfect. It is impossible for God to suffer. And Jesus on
the Cross is God. The Faith tells us this. And we are obliged to
accept it, totally, without in any way diminishing it. But at the
same time human experience tells us that this same Jesus suffers and
even that He dies.
relation to the Church, it is the same problem. In order to remain
in the truth, one must keep these two sets of given facts: the facts
of the Faith and also the facts noted by reason. This council tried
to harmonize itself with the world. It brought the world into the
Church, and so now we have disaster. And all these reforms that were
made on the basis of the Council, were made by the authorities for
this purpose. Today, they talk to us about continuity, but where is
it? In Assisi? In the kissing of the Koran? In the suppression of
the Catholic States? Where is that continuity?
Hence, we are
going to have a close look at the question of the Church Magisterium
in connection with Tradition, and then apply it to Vatican II to sort
out whether or not those who object to some key texts of the Council
are heretical and not rather those who follow it integrally.
part 2 >