Archbishop 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’:
This 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.
Continuity 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…
The same 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.
He quotes 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 mentalit!
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 tenets.
From the 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:
(Major) Whoever does not accept the integral magisterium of the Church, including Vatican II, is heretical.
(Minor) But the SSPX refuses Vatican II, part of the integral Church teaching.
(Conclusion) 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.
Today, in 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 heretic and not rather those who follow it integrally.
to be continued...Footnotes
1 Published at vatican.va on 11-28-2012 in Italian under the title, "Un’immagine Della Chiesa Di Gesu Cristo Che Abbraccia Tutto Il Mondo".
2 English translations of seminal Italian texts are from an CNS article of November 29, 2012 titled "Reading Vatican II as break with tradition is heresy, prefect says" and the author himself.