I have quoted Pope Paul VI where he gives his personal denial that Vatican II ever promulgated infallible doctrine. It doesn’t seem easy for most Catholics to understand that Vatican II was unique in this respect. He was the pope. If he denied infallibility who are we to disagree? If a pope fails to ratify a Council, it is not infallible. Why is it infallible if a pope ratifies conciliar reforms while saying that the teachings do not reach a level of infallibility?
I wion’t go so far as to call it disobedience, but it seems to me to be a gross misunderstanding when Catholics don’t see the need to evaluate the authority of the Council according to what the promulgating pope said about it. Lay people can say it is infallible for forty-five years and have, but if the pope says it isn’t, I am with the pope.
- “Differing from other councils, this one was not directly dogmatic, but disciplinary and pastoral.”
Pope Paul VI, General Audience of August 6, 1975, To the rectors of the Universities of the Society of Jesus
- “Today we are concluding the Second Vatican Council…But one thing must be noted here, namely, that the teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements…”
Pope Paul VI, Address of the last general meeting of the Council, Dec. 7, 1965
- “There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification, the Council intended to give its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions backed by the church’s infallible teaching authority. The answer is known by those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964. In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in any extraordinary manner any dogmas carrying the mark of infallibility.”
Pope Paul VI, General Audience of Dec. 1, 1966
- “Taking into account conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present council, the sacred synod defined as binding on the Church only those matters of faith and morals which it has expressly put forward as such.”
Addendum of Nov. 16, 1964 (alluded to by Paul VI above in quote #3) in the Explanatory Note to Lumen Gentium.
A little commentary might be helpful here. Many of the council Fathers were wary of the theological ambiguity that characterized the volumes of words with which they had to deal. You can read about this in The Rhine Flows Through the Tiber, by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen. Earlier councils were written with the concise brevity and clarity. It is usually easy to know if you agree or disagree, and it is the kind of writing that is required in an infallible pronouncement. Of what use is an infallible pronouncement that is subject to multiple interpretations?
So, some of the more conservative Council Fathers, before signing off on Lumen Gentium, wanted to make certain that they weren’t signing off on something that could be said to be binding on the Church. In response they were directed to a document written four months previously to Lumen Gentium, that applied not only to that document, but to the entire council. It can be misleading seeing it is now seen as an explanatory note to Lumen Gentium, but a careful reading of the whole explanation will reveal that it applied to all of the Council teachings. That would be why Paul VI cited that explanatory note when qualifying the teaching authority of the entire Council in his audience of Dec. 1, 1966.