Little catechism of the Second Vatican Council (Part Nine) – The Nine Decrees (decrees 6-9)
by Fr. Pierre-Marie, O.P.
Dominican in Avrillé
From Le Sel de la terre 93, Summer 2015
The Nine Decrees (continued)
3. The two Decrees on missionary activity and means of social communication
6. Ad Gentes (AG): the missionary activity of the Church.
7. Inter mirifica (IM): the means of social communication.
What sort of charity does Ad Gentes (AG) promote?
Missionary activity is a consequence of the charity that works toward the salvation of souls. But AG has a false conception of charity: “Christian charity truly extends to all, without distinction of race, creed, or social condition” (§ 12). Christian charity certainly extends to all men, but with distinctions. There is an order in charity: one should first love those who are closest, and especially our brothers in the faith: “let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal. 6:10).
What does AG say about ecumenism and religious liberty?
Ecumenism obliges AG, too, should sacrifice to the template:
« The ecumenical spirit should be nurtured in the neophytes, who should take into account that the brethren who believe in Christ are Christ’s disciples, reborn in baptism, sharers with the People of God in very many good things. Insofar as religious conditions allow, ecumenical activity should be furthered in such a way that, excluding any appearance of indifference or confusion on the one hand, or of unhealthy rivalry on the other, Catholics should cooperate in a brotherly spirit with their separated brethren, among to the norms of the Decree on Ecumenism, making before the nations a common profession of faith, insofar as their beliefs are common, in God and in Jesus Christ, and cooperating in social and in technical projects as well as in cultural and religious ones. Let them cooperate especially for the sake of Christ, their common Lord: let His Name be the bond that unites them! This cooperation should be undertaken not only among private persons, but also, subject to approval by the local Ordinary, among churches or ecclesial communities and their works. [§ 15.] »
The content of this paragraph and the reference to the decree UR show that the ecumenism in question here is the false conciliar ecumenism that was condemned in advance by Pius XI in Mortalium animos (6 January 1928).
AG also says: “The Church strictly forbids forcing anyone to embrace the Faith, or alluring or enticing people by worrisome wiles. By the same token, she also strongly insists on this right, that no one be frightened away from the Faith by unjust vexations on the part of others.” (§ 13).
This phrase would be well-understood if it did not make a footnote to Dignitatis Humanæ, 2, 4, 10. Thus, one should understand by “worrisome wiles” a slight moral pressure exerted by the public powers who would recognize—as is its right—the Catholic religion as the State religion.
What does Inter Mirifica (IM) say about the “wonders of technology“?
In its first paragraph, IM lists the means of social communication (the press, cinema, radio, television, and other such technologies) as “Among the wonderful technological discoveries which men of talent, especially in the present era, have made with God’s help“. One would have liked a bit less praise for these technologies, rapidly becoming powerful means of moral deterioration.
What does IM say about the right to information?
IM demands a “right to information“, provided that there “be full respect for the laws of morality and for the legitimate rights and dignity of the individual.” Yet, DH lists false religious liberty among the rights of man, and GS—we have seen—teaches errors on the dignity of man and the rights of man. The “right to information” is thus not suitably limited: it does not conform to the doctrine of the Church on the liberty of the press1.
Is is not surprising that in 2015, fifty years after the Council, following the attack against the journal Charlie-Hebdo2, the bishops of France signed a text in favor of “freedom of expression“:
« We are unanimous in the defenses of the values of the Republic, liberty, equality, fraternity, and in particular, the defense of freedom of expression. We commit ourselves to continue this course of sharing, dialogue, and fraternity. »
4. The two Decrees Decrees on the eastern Churches and on ecumenism
8. Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE): the eastern Catholic Churches.
9. Unitatis redintegratio (UR): ecumenism.
Which novelties does the text Orientalium Ecclesiarum (OE) contain regarding Eastern Catholic Churches?
This decree claims to enlist the Eastern Catholic Churches (also called “uniate” because they are not schismatic like the Orthodox, but united to Rome) in the false conciliar ecumenism.
Also, this is recommended to them: “The Eastern Churches in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome have a special duty of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians, in accordance with the principles of the decree, ‘About Ecumenism,’ of this Sacred Council” (§ 24).
What is the teaching of this Decree regarding communicatio in sacris?
It is a pure contradiction endangering the principle of non-contradiction, and also the Catholic faith.
The Decree begins by recalling exactly the ban on communicatio in sacris: “Common participation in worship (communicatio in sacris) which harms the unity of the Church or involves formal acceptance of error or the danger of aberration in the faith, of scandal and indifferentism, is forbidden by divine law.” (§ 26).
But this just reminder is followed by a “but” where the contrary comes: “On the other hand, pastoral experience shows clearly that, as regards our Eastern brethren…”
And without any doctrinal argument, it comes to contradict the posed principle, while specifying that the principles remains posed:
« Without prejudice to the principles noted earlier, Eastern Christians who are in fact separated in good faith from the Catholic Church, if they ask of their own accord and have the right dispositions, may be admitted to the sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick. Further, Catholics may ask for these same sacraments from those non-Catholic ministers whose churches possess valid sacraments, as often as necessity or a genuine spiritual benefit recommends such a course and access to a Catholic priest is physically or morally impossible. Further, given the same principles, common participation [communicatio in sacris] by Catholics with their Eastern separated brethren in sacred functions, things and places is allowed for a just cause » [§ 27 and 28].
We are in contradiction with the doctrine and practice of the pre-conciliar Church. We refer the readers to Sel de la terre 40, pp. 79 to 81, where the traditional doctrine on communicatio in sacris will be found. Here are some extracts: “It is forbidden that the Sacraments of the Church be ministered to heretics and schismatics, even if they ask for them and are in good faith, unless beforehand, rejecting their errors, they are reconciled with the Church.” (1917 Code of Canon Law, can. 731, § 2). “One cannot ever ask for, except in the case of necessity, a sacrament from a heretical or schismatic minister; those who contravene this defense will fall under the penalty of excommunication brought against the credentes [those who adhere to the heresy]. In the case of extreme necessity, proximate danger of death, it is only permitted to ask for the necessary sacraments (baptism or absolution or, for lack of absolution, extreme unction). If there is risk of perversion, one must be content with an act of perfect contrition.” (Dictionary of Catholic Theology, article “heresy“, written by A. Michel.)
What is one to think of the Decree Unitatis redintegratio (UR) on ecumenism?
It is one of the worst texts of the Council. It alone would merit a detailed study3. We will indicate here only the principal errors:
Is the purpose of the Incarnation “the unity of the human race“?
It is known that the most common solution to the question of the motive of the Incarnation is that God incarnated “for our salvation” (Credo of the Mass).
But, until then, no theologian had thought of the motive proposed by the Council, “the unity of the human race“: “What has revealed the love of God among us is that the Father has sent into the world His only-begotten Son, so that, being made man, He might by His redemption give new life to the entire human race and unify it.” (§ 2).
It is true that Our Lord wants to gather his sheep in His fold, but it is necessary, to be a sheep, to begin by believing in Him. Those who refuse to believe cannot participate in this unity.
“The unity of the human race” is not purpose of the Incarnation, but the utopian project sought by Freemasonry.
To attain this goal, the Council will contrive new concepts: “imperfect communion“, “full incorporation“, and “elements of Church“.
Is the conception of “imperfect communion” traditional?
“But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church […]. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect.” (§ 3).
The concept of full or imperfect communion is an invention of Vatican II4. Either one fulfills the three conditions for belonging to the Church—baptism, faith, submission to the legitimate hierarchy—and one is in communion with it, or a condition is lacking and one is not in communion: “Est est, non non” (Mt. 5:37).
But what is particularly grave is the suggestion that such an imperfect communion allows one to be saved without it being necessary give up heresy or schism.
What is the danger to the Church of a “full incorporation“?
To be “fully incorporated” in the Church, UR tells us, in addition to the three usual conditions, a 4th condition is necessary: “possessing the Spirit of Christ” (LG § 14)5. This means that sinners, as well as Protestants (UR 3), are not fully incorporated into the Church.
The danger is formulating a Church with two categories of members: the category of perfect Christians (the fully incorporated “pure“) and that of imperfect Christians not fully incorporated. And as the sacraments are given in certain cases to Protestants and schismatics, why not also give them to sinners?
How does the concept of “elements of Church” introduce a false idea?
“Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.” (§ 3).
Before Vatican II, one spoke of “remnants“, to designate what remains of the true Church in the communities that are separated from its bosom. This term makes one think of “ruins” and it was judged too negative. Thus it opted for the notion of “elements“, also used in LG, no. 8. But doing this introduced a false idea, suggesting that these elements suffice by themselves to lead one to Christ, without the need to desire belonging to the Church.
Note that this new theology can open the door to a certain recognition of illegitimate unions (concubinage, “trial marriage“, unnatural unions, etc.), as Cardinal Kasper remarked6 and as Le Sel de la terre indicated at the time7.
What is the principal error of this Decree?
The decree tends to destroy the dogma of the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation. Besides what we said regarding “imperfect communion” and the “elements of the Church“, there is the assertion that heretical or schismatic sects also rank as “means of salvation” which the Spirit of Christ does not refrain from using (§ 3)8.
If one understands this assertion in the sense that the Holy Ghost can use these sects to save their members even when they do not have any desire to leave them, this proposition is heretical, because it is directly opposed to the dogma “outside the Church there is no salvation“9. To be saved, the at least implicit desire to belong to the Catholic Church is necessary, i.e., the desire to leave these sects.
If one understands this assertion in the sense that the Holy Ghost uses these sects to give their members the desire to belong to the Catholic Church, it is at the very least unrealistic.
But the worst phrase could be: “the separated Churches and Communities […] have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation“. This is to deny the unity of the divine intention to save by the Church that Jesus founded and not by another. To attribute a divine purpose (“mystery of salvation”) to the action of a sect seems to be a blasphemy again the wisdom of God and the unity of His plan.
What else do you note in this decree?
It inaugurates the era of repentance and suggests that the Catholic Church has pardonable faults for the “separated brethren“: “we humbly beg pardon of God and of our separated brethren” (§ 7).
It opens the door to communicatio in sacris: “two main principles governing the practice of such common worship [communicatio]: first, the bearing witness to the unity of the Church, and second, the sharing in the means of grace” (§ 8). In practice the second principle will serve to sacrifice the first.
It refuses to employ « polemics » in the relations with “the separated brethren“, suppressing in a stroke of the pen a good part of Tradition.
It introduces the idea that “in Catholic doctrine there exists a ‘hierarchy’ of truths” (§ 11), without recalling that the “last” truth of faith is as necessary as the first for salvation.
§ 12 hopes that “before the whole world let all Christians confess their faith in the trine God“, placing the divine faith (of Catholics) and human faith of heretics on the same level. This same paragraph hopes for the social collaboration of “Christians“, without taking into account the danger of this collaboration and the change on this point with the previous discipline of the Church.
§ 14 suggests that throughout the centuries the Roman See did not exercise primacy, which implies that the particular Eastern Churches are sisters of the Roman Church, and thus they they were not subject to its ordinary jurisdiction, and that today’s schismatic Eastern Churches are the same as those founded by the Apostles, as if the schism did not introduce any break.
§ 15 also claims that the Eastern schismatics unreservedly benefit from “apostolic succession“, and it recommends “some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and the approval of Church authority“.
§ 16 claims that certain aspects of revealed mystery have sometimes been better grasped and explained by the (schismatic) Orientals than by Catholics.
§ 19 reduces the difference between the Catholic faith and the Protestant heresy to differences “in the interpretation of revealed truth“.
§ 23 states that the “separated brethren“, thus heretics, have the “faith in Christ“, as if this were systematically the case; that “The daily Christian life of these brethren is nourished by their faith in Christ and strengthened by the grace of Baptism“, whereas this is only true for infants or for heretics in invincible ignorance; and that they have “a true charity“, whereas charity does not exist without supernatural faith.
What judgement do you pass on the entire doctrine of the decree?
The doctrine of UR impressively strays, in its whole as in its details, from Catholic theology on the relations between the Church and other Christian sects, such as it was expressed in the preparatory schemas of the First Vatican Council, in the “Ottaviani” schema of Vatican II, and in papal encyclicals, in particular in Satis Cognitum by Leo XIII (29 June 1896), Mortalium Animos by Pius XI (6 January 1928), and Mystici Corporis by Pius XII (29 June 1943).
- “Here We must include that harmful and never sufficiently denounced freedom to publish any writings whatever and disseminate them to the people, which some dare to demand and promote with so great a clamor.” (Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos, 15 August 1832). — “Men have a right freely and prudently to propagate throughout the State what things soever are true and honorable, so that as many as possible may possess them; but lying opinions, than which no mental plague is greater, and vices which corrupt the heart and moral life should be diligently repressed by public authority, lest they insidiously work the ruin of the State.” (Leo XIII, Libertas præstantissimum, 20 June 1888)
- Blasphemous journal regularly attacking Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Church with horrible cartoons.
- See frère Pierre-Marie, « Bref examen critique de Unitatis Redintegratio » in L’Unité spirituelle du genre humain dans la religion de Vatican II – Études théologiques – Troisième Symposium de Paris, Paris, Vu de haut hors série, 2005, p. 163-192.
- See frère Pierre-Marie, « L’Unité de l’Église », La Tentation de laœcuménisme, Versailles, Courrier de Rome, 1999, and the editorial of Sel de la terre 35.
- See frère Pierre-Marie, « “Ayant l’esprit du Christ” ? », Le Sel de la terre 49 (summer 2004), p. 6.
- “Church doctrine is not a closed system: the Second Vatican Council teaches us that there is a development, meaning that it is possible to look into this further. I wonder if a deeper understanding similar to what we saw in ecclesiology, is possible: although the Catholic Church is Christ’s true Church, there are elements of ecclesiality beyond the institutional boundaries of the Church too. Couldn’t some elements of sacramental marriage also be recognised in civil marriages in certain cases? For example, the concept of lifelong commitment, mutual love and care, Christian life and a public declaration of commitment that does not exist in common-law marriages [i.e., free unions—Ed.].” Vatican Insider, 18 September 2014.
- See Le Sel de la terre 43 (winter 2002-2003, p. 252). In a review on an article by Father de La Soujeole who defended the new conciliar theology on the Church, the reviewer wrote: “What our Dominican does not see either are the possible applications of his theory of the ‘potential whole’. So, illegitimate unions (concubinage, ‘trial marriage’, unnatural union, etc.) could also be qualified as potential parts of marriage. Then why does the Church not bless them?”.
- “It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.” (UR 3, 4).
- “Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach there is also contained that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.” Letter of the Holy Office to the archbishop of Boston, 8 August 1949, DS 3866. — On this dogma, see Abbè François Laisney, « Le baptême de désir », in Le Sel de la terre 11 and 12; Hugon (père) Édouard, Hors de l’Église point de salut ?, Eguelshardt, Clovis, 1995 (review in Le Sel de la terre 14).