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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

How Does Francis Actually Use Vatican II?

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How Does Francis Actually Use Vatican II?

Prior to Francis’s release of Traditionis Custodes, many traditional Catholics never had to think seriously about whether they accepted what Benedict XVI and Francis described as “the binding character of the Second Vatican Council.” Such faithful Catholics could attend the Tridentine Mass, learn the Faith from traditional catechisms and the writings of the saints, and have devout and fruitful lives without ever hearing of Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, or Nostra Aetate, let alone knowing their contents.

 

So what were traditional Catholics to think when they learned that Francis had embarked on a path of dramatically limiting the Tridentine Mass because some Catholics had claimed “with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that [Vatican II] betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church’”? Some who saw through Francis’s transparent efforts to cause division amongst Catholics were nevertheless incensed against those who had allegedly jeopardized their ability to attend the Tridentine Mass. And so many traditional Catholics rushed to the defense of Vatican II, insisting that they would never question the Council.

After all, when he says we must accept Vatican II, he of course means that we must also accept all of the initiatives he promotes in the name of Vatican II.

Although we now have an even greater obligation to learn about the more contentious aspects of Vatican II, one of our first tasks must be to understand how Francis actually uses Vatican II. After all, when he says we must accept Vatican II, he of course means that we must also accept all of the initiatives he promotes in the name of Vatican II.

Throughout his papacy, Francis has referred to the Council hundreds of times in his public statements, and several key themes emerge when we survey those references. Before considering those key themes, though, we can get a broad overview of his statements about Vatican II from his September 25, 2021 address “To the Bishops Who Are Friends of the Focolare Movement”:

“The Opera di Maria, or Focolare Movement, has always cultivated, through the charism received from its founder Chiara Lubich, the sense and service of unity: unity in the Church, unity among all believers, and unity throughout the world, ‘in concentric circles.’ This makes us think of the definition of the Church given by the Second Vatican Council: ‘the sacrament or sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race’ (Constitution Lumen Gentium, 1). In the midst of the lacerations and destructions of war, the Spirit placed in Chiara’s young heart a seed of fraternity, a seed of communion.”

As an initial matter, we must understand that the “Focolare Movement” aims to “increase communion, fraternity and peace among people of different Churches, with followers of various world religions and with people who have no religious belief” (Focolare website). For Francis, this praiseworthy movement recalls a definition of the Church (above, from Vatican II) that likely sounds remarkably non-Catholic to faithful Catholics. What does it mean for the Church to be a “sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race”? If a church unifies the whole human race, but most people know nothing of Catholicism, how important is Catholic belief to salvation? Does it sound like this might be useful to the globalists?

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Building on Vatican II’s idea of uniting the entire human race, Francis continues:

“Dear brothers and sisters, this, we can say, is God's ‘dream.’ It is His plan to reconcile and harmonize everything and everyone in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10; Col 1:20). This is also the ‘dream' of fraternity, to which I dedicated the Encyclical Fratelli tutti. In the face of the ‘shadows of a closed world,’ where so many dreams of unity are being shattered, where a project for all is lacking and globalization is drifting without a common course, where the scourge of the pandemic risks exacerbating inequalities, the Spirit calls us to have the boldness  —the parrhesia — of being one, as the title of your meeting says. Dare to be one. Starting from the awareness that unity is a gift - that is the other part of the title.”

Does what Francis refers to as “God’s dream” include Francis’s church providing the “common course” for globalization?

How should we interpret Francis’s idea that “the Spirit” calls us to “have the boldness” to remedy the deficiencies he identifies: that “a project for all is lacking and globalization is drifting without a common course?” Does what Francis refers to as “God’s dream” include Francis’s church providing the “common course” for globalization?

Although Francis does periodically refer to Vatican II to endorse some genuinely Catholic ideas — like honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary and calling souls to holiness — most of his references to the Council help pave this “common course for globalization.” Among such references, the following deserve special attention: ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue; human fraternity; and the new path of the Church after Vatican II.

Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue. One of the most dominant themes in Francis’s discussions of Vatican II is ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. Relying on the Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, and the Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, Francis has made numerous statements in favor of diminishing the differences that separate the various world religions:

“I would like to recall, secondly, the years of Vatican Council II, from 1962 to 1965, when the city welcomed the Council Fathers, ecumenical observers and many others. Rome shone as a universal, Catholic, ecumenical space. It became a universal city of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, of peace. One saw how much the city meant for the Church and for the whole world.” (February 3, 2020)

These ecumenical efforts have yielded relatively few conversions to Catholicism but have undoubtedly contributed to the mass exodus from the Catholic Church.

Amongst his various communications to Protestants, Muslims, and Jews, we can find dozens of similar messages. If the Church no longer tries to convert members of other religions but rather embraces diversity for the sake of peace, why would anyone believe that the Church truly considers its moral laws to be necessary for salvation? If Francis is right, why would anyone die or even suffer to defend Catholicism? These ecumenical efforts have yielded relatively few conversions to Catholicism but have undoubtedly contributed to the mass exodus from the Catholic Church. Many of those who remain in the Church develop a spirit of religious indifferentism that deepens each time Francis shows more favor to non-Catholic religions than he does to traditional Catholics.

Human Fraternity. Closely related to his ecumenical outreach, Francis has an unmistakable focus on promoting fraternity among all men, as we can see clearly from his recent address to the bishops associated with the Focolare Movement (above). For this he relies on the teachings of Vatican II, as we can see from two examples (among others):

“Dear friends, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, at which the Catholic Church committed herself to ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue in the service of understanding and friendship. I wish to reaffirm this commitment, which is born of our conviction of the universality of God’s love and the salvation which he offers to all. The world rightly expects believers to work together with people of good will in facing the many problems affecting our human family. As we look to the future, let us pray that all men and women will see themselves as brothers and sisters, peacefully united in and through our differences. Let us pray for peace!” (November 25, 2015)

“This is something important, human fraternity – how as men and women we are all brothers and sisters – and we need to make progress with the other religions. The Second Vatican Council took a major step with this; then the institutions, the Council for Christian Unity and the Council for Interreligious Dialogue . . . . You are human; you are a child of God; you are my brother or sister, full stop. This would be the biggest step to take and frequently we have to risk taking it. You know that there are criticisms in this regard: that the Pope is not courageous; he is reckless, acting against Catholic doctrine, that he is one step from heresy…. There are risks. But these decisions are always made in prayer, in dialogue, asking advice, in reflection. They are not a whim, and they follow in the line of what the Council taught.” (March 8, 2021)

In this latter example, Francis acknowledges that he risks falling into heresy with his promotion of human fraternity but he points to Vatican II as his defense. As we have seen, the Conciliar Church’s movement toward human fraternity depends upon focusing on the interests and weaknesses men have in common rather than the hope that as many people as possible will accept God’s grace to become Catholic and save their souls. All of this helps smooth the way for the globalist objectives. And, as is evident with Traditions Custodes, Traditional Catholics stand in the way of this human fraternity with their insistence on Christ’s Truth, so they must be removed from Francis’s church.

We cannot agree with Francis about Vatican II without abandoning the pre-Vatican II Church; and we cannot disagree with Francis about Vatican II without him telling us we are outside the Church.

New Path of the Church after Vatican II. As we saw with Traditionis Custodes, one must choose between the pre-Vatican II beliefs and the post-Vatican II beliefs. Francis has found several ways to emphasize this point:

“This is magisterium: the Council is the magisterium of the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council, and if you do not follow the Council or you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the Church. We must be demanding and strict on this point. The Council should not be negotiated in order to have more of these... No, the Council is as it is. And this problem that we are experiencing, of selectivity with respect to the Council, has been repeated throughout history with other Councils.” (January 30, 2021)

“Historians say that for a Council to sink its roots in the Church it takes 100 years.  We are halfway there.  And this can create uncertainty, even for me.  I will tell you, I saw a phrase [in the Document] and I said to myself: ‘But this phrase, I am not sure if it is certain…'.  It was a phrase of the Council!  And it surprised me too!” (February 5, 2019)

“Before all else, the Council was an encounter.  A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time.  An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey.” (December 8, 2015)

“I dare say that the Council has revolutionized to some extent the status of theology – the believer’s way of doing and thinking.” (September 3, 2015)

“With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history.” (Misericordiae Vultus, April 11, 2015)

“Many people have drifted away from the Church. It would be a mistake to place the blame on one side or the other; indeed, there is no need even to speak of blame. There were responsibilities in the history of the Church and her men, there were in certain ideologies and also in individuals. As children of the Church we must continue on the journey of the Second Vatican Council and divest ourselves of useless and hurtful things, of false worldly security that weigh down the Church and injure her true face.” (October 14, 2013)

These types of statements are likely the most precious prizes for the globalists who seek to undermine the Church. We are faced with a choice that may seem awful to many people: we cannot agree with Francis about Vatican II without abandoning the pre-Vatican II Church; and we cannot disagree with Francis about Vatican II without him telling us we are outside the Church. But when we consider that the entire Church Triumphant is against Francis and his globalist partners, this choice is actually quite simple.

Why do we expect God to save us if we will not at least do what we can to fight?

In addition to these common themes of ecumenism, fraternity, and the Church’s new path, Francis often refers to Vatican II in support of other ideas that support the globalist agenda: stewardship of the earth; embracing poverty; uniting people despite their diverse beliefs and practices; inculturation; and human dignity. He also relies on Vatican II to defend the “synodal path” that has already caused so much damage to the Church and promises even more if Francis has his way. He could certainly speak of these topics without referring to Vatican II, but he relies on the Council to give his teachings a “Catholic” authority that they would not otherwise have.

Once we see that Francis is using Vatican II to overtly advance globalist, anti-Catholic ideas, do we really have the right to defend Vatican II without simultaneously, and clearly, warning of its ambiguities and apparent errors? How can we take comfort in our personal (and dubious) ability to reconcile Vatican II’s ambiguities with tradition while we can see clearly that the progressives exploit the same ambiguities to lead souls away from the Church? We need to consider that the non-Catholic world looks to Catholics to see what we think of Francis and his radical agenda. Our silence shouts from the rooftops that we take no issue with what he is doing in the name of Vatican II.

We need courage. The words of Cardinal Louis-Edouard Pie from 1841 on the duties of priests apply to all of us. Here he speaks of our prayers for God to save us as we find ourselves seemingly powerless to overcome the evils that surround us:

“But God has not heard us. Instead, we have heard His answer in the voice of the prophets of old: Why have you entered this holy army, if it is not to fight the wars of the Lord? Have I demanded your success when I have commanded you to work? Go, and fight to death for the Truth. If you do not save their souls, at least you will save yours...  Talk to this people; tell them their crimes; My grace will be with you. Speak, and if the truth hurts them, I will give you a brow harder than theirs, I will pour into your heart a courage and, above all, a love stronger and more inexhaustible than their hatred.”

Why do we expect God to save us if we will not at least do what we can to fight? We must trust in Christ the King and fight for His Church and His Truth, without counting the cost. The sooner we do this, the sooner we will see our enemies crushed. Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in praelio!

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Last modified on Tuesday, September 28, 2021
Robert Morrison | Remnant Columnist

Robert Morrison is a Catholic, husband and father. He is the author of A Tale Told Softly: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Hidden Catholic England.