Was Vatican II a Break from the Past? 6

The problem with asserting that Vatican II was a break from the past implies, for some people, a ruptured Magisterium.

Fr. Jean-Michel Gleize, professor of ecclesiology at the Seminary in Ecône, frames the problem in terms of a false dilemma: 

“[The] objection to our position, in short, is that the only living magisterium worthy of the name is today’s magisterium, not yesterday’s.  Only the magisterium of today can tell what conforms to Tradition and what is contrary to it, for it alone represents the living magisterium, the interpreter of Tradition.  And therefore we must choose one of two things:  either we reject Vatican II, judging that it is contrary to Tradition, but at the same time contradicting the only possible magisterium, the living magisterium, which is today’s (the magisterium of Benedict XVI), and we are no Catholics but Protestants;  or else we decide not to be Protestants and we are obliged to accept Vatican II so as to obey the living magisterium, which is today’s, declaring that the Council is in conformity with Tradition.  This is a dilemma, in other words, a problem with no apparent solution beside the two that are indicated:  if we try to avoid one of the two horns, we will not avoid the other.  But in reality this dilemma is false.  For there are such things as false dilemmas….” (read more)

A lot of people will look at this problem and shrug, “What’s the problem?”

The problem, as I see it, as far as the Christian laity are concerned (and some clergy as well), is potentially misunderstanding the direction in which the Church is headed with the New Evangelization. That misunderstanding stems from misunderstanding the nature of the Church both as it exists today in the modern world and with regard to its perennial nature.

A good friend of mine, Deacon Brian Coe, produced this video in which he explains “the hermeneutics of continuity” — that’s Vat. II lingo for Understanding the Church “here and now” as the same Church throughout all time. I think Deacon Coe’s simple explanation does a lot to clarify the continuity of Church’s living Magisterium and Tradition, and it does so without grappling with the horns of Fr Gleize’s false dilemma.

Deacon Coe plans to produce one video a month. If you found his explanation as useful as I did, please tune in to his Youtube channel for periodic updates.

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  1. I agree that Vatican II as a whole is in hermeneutic continuity with all the other Councils. But there are at least a couple things that are questionable within certain documents that came out of Vatican II. One example is that in Gaudium et Spes deportation is called an infamy but that would contradict a nations right to sovereignty and the nation having the right to deport people who have not entered the country with the proper documentation. I just don’t see deportation as being an evil or criminal act. To me there seems to need a qualifier in front of the word “deportation” when calling it “evil” or “criminal”. But the word arbitrary is in front of the word imprisonment so is it meant to apply to the word deportation too?

    • I’ll need to go back and read that part of the document again, Teresa. In principle, I have to agree with you, especially regarding the rights of sovereign nations to protect their interests and national security. I would have to see how G&S qualifies this statement, if it does. In an unqualified sense, I don’t think that statement makes a lot of sense, so I would be surprised if there is not some other specification in the text to clarify exactly what was meant by that. Thanks for pointing this out.

      God bless!

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  3. When we say Vatican II it is important as well to point out that it was a unique Council. Quotes from the Holy Father’s recent but brief commentary can be found here: (http://www.battleforthecoreoftheworld.com/2012/10/b16-still-on-move-documents-of-vatican.html)

    Based on his commentary, it appears that not all of the documents are considered doctrinal/magisterial, as “For this the council was not necessary”. I think that the imperfections contained in the documents (excluding I would guess the dogmatic constitutions) however, I would stop short of saying containing false propositions. However, I think the weakness the Holy Father referred to here means that at least one document presents part of the truth. (all true propositions-ex. we have good aspects in common with other religions, and excludes other true propositions which came from prior teachings-no one has the right to be in error).

    Prior doctrines which seem to contradict (for example – no one has the right to be in error) only seem to do so because they were not reiterated alongside and so many assumed they have been replaced with a new doctrine of religious freedom. It would be impossible for Vatican II to reiterate all prior Church doctrines (and it should not be (but now it is) necessary). In fact, I believe this was the weakness of Vatican II and the source of the confusion created: discontinuity. Everything that was taught before Vatican II by Rome should have been continued to be taught alongside whatever new lights came about. Doctrine does not change.

    The confusion arises from making Vatican II (since it is the most recent council) the only council. The Holy Father can’t request of the faithful to study all councils–that’s the idea of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    But how can one book give a clear picture of what came before? It cannot. If you want anything more than an elementary/summary education in Catholicism (that which is presented in CCC) study that magisterium which came before it as well

    On Liberalism (Mirari Vos). Gregory XVI. 1832.
    On Current Errors (Quanta Cura). Pius IX. 1864.
    The Syllabus of Errors. Pius IX. 1864.
    On Government Authority (Diuturnum Mud). Leo XIII. 1881.
    On Freemasonry and Naturalism (Humanum Genus). Leo XIII. 1884.
    On the Nature of True Liberty (Libertas Praestantissimum). Leo X111. 1888.
    On the Condition of the Working Classes (Rerum Novarum). Leo XIII. 1891.
    On Christian Democracy (Graves de Communi Re). Leo XIII. 1901.
    Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists (Lainentabili Sane). St. Pius X. 1907.
    On Modernism (Pascendi Dominici Gregis). St. Pius X. 1907.
    Our Apostolic Mandate (On the “Sillon”). St. Pius X. 1910.
    The Oath Against Modernism. St. Pius X. 1910.
    On the Feast of Christ the King (Quas Primas). Pius XI. 1925.
    On Fostering True Religious Unity (Mortalium Animos). Pius XI. 1928.
    On Atheistic Communism (Divini Redemptoris). Pius XI. 1937.
    On Certain False Opinions (Humani Generic). Pius XII. 1950.

  4. In this we find origin of the pejorative name “neo-conservative” which (usually) refers to someone who considers himself a fully informed and loyal Catholic but only understands the post-Vatican II magisterium (which as we see above in its non-ideal present state often excludes inconvenient aspects of that which came before.) Often its a matter of being fully informed and experiencing it. I believe this was the Holy Fathers motive in trying to make the extraordinary form (Tridentine Mass) widely available.

    • Thanks for your comments, Jon. Sorry they sat in moderation for a while (and I am not sure why that was because I don’t have moderate all comments function turned on…). We just got the electricity back on here last night, so this is my first time back on the blog in a few days and I am just catching up on things. God bless!

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