Vatican II rejected at least five modernist ideas: relativism (Gaudium et Spes 19), religious indifferentism (Lumen Gentium 14), abortion (Gaudium et Spes 27), secularism (Dignitatis Humanae 1), and the idea that the Scriptures can sometimes be false (Dei Verbum 11).
About relativism, the Second Vatican Council says: The word atheism is applied to phenomena which are quite distinct from one another. For while God is expressly denied by some, others believe that man can assert absolutely nothing about Him. Still others use such a method to scrutinize the question of God as to make it seem devoid of meaning. Many…altogether disallow that there is any absolute truth. … Undeniably, those who willfully shut out God from their hearts and try to dodge religious questions are not following the dictates of their consciences, and hence are not free of blame… (Gaudium et Spes 19) In this passage, the denial of any absolute truth is discussed under the section on atheism, and the Council says that “[those who] try to dodge religious questions” by “disallow[ing] that there is any absolute truth” are “not free of blame.” This is a Conciliar rejection of a modernist idea by the Second Vatican Council. It is one piece of evidence that the Council was not modernist, as some claim it was.
About religious indifferentism, the Second Vatican Council says: Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, [this Council] teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. (Lumen Gentium 14) In this passage, religious indifferentism is opposed in several ways. For one, the Council says that the Catholic Church “is necessary for salvation.” Indifferentism says that no particular religion is necessary for salvation. Thus, indifferentism is opposed by the proclamation of its opposite.
Also, the statement in which the phrase “could not be saved” appears has the form of a Conciliar decree. Ecumenical councils frequently name an opinion and say that whoever would adopt that opinion will be anathema. This council goes further and says that whoever would adopt the position it condemns could not be saved. This is another point of evidence that the Council was not modernist.
About abortion, the Second Vatican Council says: [W]hatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction…all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society… Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator. (Gaudium et Spes 27) In this passage, abortion is discussed as one item in a list of actions condemned as sinful. The declaration calls it “[an] infam[y] indeed” which “poison[s] human society” and shows “supreme dishonor to the Creator.” These are some of the strongest words in the Council about particular actions, and abortion is rejected among them. By condemning as sinful an action that modernism regards as morally neutral, the Council gives us another piece of evidence that it was not modernist.
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