Vatican II Council Strictly Pastoral According To Popes VI & Benedict XVI

Recently I was going over an article written in from the Catholic Knight website dated in early 2009.
It maintains the VII Council was only a pastoral one with no infallible doctrine taught from the Council. Something of an eye-opener I have read in several other Catholic books and articles over the last 50 plus years.

While Vatican II was merely pastoral, outlining the desire for new methods and standards, but in no way defining new doctrine or exercising infallibility. Catholics need to understand this. THE CHURCH DID NOT CHANGE WITH VATICAN II. The Second Vatican Council MUST be interpreted in the greater context of the Church’s previous two councils, which according to the popes, hold a higher place in history.

Ever since the close of the council, and the institution of the new mass five years later, many Catholics have treated the Second Vatican Council as if it were the definitive explanation of Catholicism for our time. They treat it as if all the previous Church councils were rendered obsolete or somehow irrelevant. In fact, according to Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI, the Second Vatican Council holds a lesser place in history than the First Vatican Council, or the Council of Trent, etc. Why? Because these councils clearly exercised the note of infallibility, defining doctrine in no uncertain terms. In effect, they were doctrinal councils, of the highest importance.

We know.

Who’s we? This is not known by most Catholics today.

So what is a “Dogmatic Constitution”? (eg., Dei Verbum and Lumen Gentium)

By “we,” I mean most of us here who post in the Traditional Catholicism forum.

Vatican II defines no new dogma.

New dogma? No. DId it further define and clarify existing dogma with the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Yes.

I hope you’re not leaning toward the errors of SSPX, that because it is not a new dogma, therefore it can be set aside and does not require religious assent of the faithful? (Maybe this should be addressed to the OP to learn his intent in posting?)

I made no reference to the SSPX. Respectfully; Please read what I posted not grandiose misperceptions or arguments of the like that cause dissentions.

I’d like to see a quote where either of these Popes states that Vatican II holds a “lesser place” in history.

Yeah, really- let’s not drag the SSPX into it.

I realize that, and I was just thinking aloud, not making any “grandiose misperceptions.” No offense intended, but I do wonder what your rationale was in posting this information? :shrug:

I realize that, and I was just thinking aloud, not making any “grandiose misperceptions.” Did you see my question mark? No offense intended, but I do wonder what your rationale was in posting this information? :shrug: When this was brought forth in previous threads, it was usually an inference that the Council did not require anyone’s obedience on that account.

Yes, the purpose of the council was to ensure that the truths of the Church would be expressed in ways that made sense to people of our times. We see how difficult it has been, how much easier might it have been for people to ignore or marginalize the Church if they felt it had not even attempted to understand how “modern” man lives.

In reality, the Church of course know exactly how man lives and thinks, and we aren’t as advanced and modern as we think. However, there is no reason why the Church shouldn’t use the langiage of the day to explain eternal truths. In fact, the Church has been doing exactly that for her whole history.

That statement appears to be the conclusion of the author of the Catholic Knight blog. Here is what Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, actually said:

“The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.”
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI
given July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile**

Since Vatican II defined no new dogma, then from a purely dogmatic standpoint it could reasonably be said to hold a “lesser place” in history then preceding councils which did define new dogma.

So what was the point?

If Vatican II defined no new dogma and only clarified existing dogmatic teaching, it means that during the Council the Bishops and the Pope were gathered in one place and were teaching established doctrine/dogmas of the Catholic faith.

Which, as most regulars who post in this section know, meets the grounds of infallibility.

For those reasons the Second Vatican Council is an infallible Council, and as such has an equal place among the other Councils.

Wasn’t the Council of Jerusalem a pastoral council too?

16 documents

  1. Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 1963.

  2. Inter Mirifica, Decree On the Means of Social Communication, 1963.

  3. Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution On the Church, 1964.

  4. Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Decree On the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite,1964.

  5. Unitatis Redintegratio, Decree on Ecumenism, 1964.

  6. Christus Dominus, Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops In the Church, 1965.

  7. Perfectae Caritatis, Decree On Renewal of Religious Life, 1965.

  8. Optatam Totius, Decree On Priestly Training, 1965.

  9. Gravissimum Educationis, Declaration On Christian Education, 1965.

  10. Nostra Aetate, Declaration On the Relation Of the Church to Non-Christian
    Religions, 1965.

  11. Dei Verbum, Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation, 1965.

  12. Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree On the Apostolate of the Laity, 1965.

  13. Dignitatis Humanae, Declaration On Religious Freedom, 1965.

  14. Ad Gentes, Decree On the Mission Activity of the Church, 1965.

  15. Presbyterorum Ordinis, Decree On the Ministry and Life of Priests, 1965.

  16. Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution On the Church In the Modern World,1965.

2600 bishops and Cardinals, two Popes, 16 documents, 4 constitutions two of which are called dogmatic; while it did not define new dogma it certain clarified Church teaching on a huge number of topics, and was most definitely the most important event of the magisterium in the last 100 years.

"The documents of Vatican Council II are, even in our own time, a compass guiding the ship of the Church as she sails on the open seas, amidst tempests or peaceful waves, to reach her destination". Vatican II, in which Pope Benedict participated as a young professor of fundamental theology at the University of Bonn, was, he said, “a unique experience” during which “I was able to witness the living Church … which places herself at the school of the Holy Spirit, the true driving force behind the Council. Rarely in history has it been possible, as it was then, to touch almost physically the universality of the Church at a moment of peak fulfilment of her mission to carry the Gospel into all ages and unto the ends of the earth”.

“The Pope”, Benedict XVI added, “wanted the Church to reflect upon her faith and upon the truths that guide her. But that serious and profound reflection … had to be the starting point for a new relationship between the Church and the modern age, between Christianity and certain essential elements of modern thought, not in order to seek conformity, but to show our world, which tends to distance itself from God, the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity”.

…“The age in which we live continues to be marked by forgetfulness and deafness towards God. I believe, then, that we must learn the simplest and most fundamental lesson of the Council: that the essence of Christianity consists in faith in God, … and in the individual and community encounter with Christ Who guides our lives. … The important thing today, as was the desire of the Council Fathers, is for us to see - clearly and anew - that God is present, that He concerns us and responds to us. And when faith in God is lacking our essential foundations give way because man loses his dignity. … The Council reminds us that the Church … has the mandate to transmit God’s salvific word of love, so that the divine call which contains our eternal beatitude may be heard and accepted”.

The Pope then went on to mention the four conciliar Constitutions, describing them as “the four cardinal points of our guiding compass”: “Sacrosanctum Concilium” on the sacred liturgy, which speaks of the centrality of the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Church; “Lumen Gentium” which highlights the Church’s fundamental duty to glorify God; “Dei Verbum” on divine Revelation, which speaks of the living Word of God that unites and animates the Church throughout history, and finally “Gaudium et Spes” which deals with the way the Church transmits to the world the light it received from God.

“Vatican Council II”, Benedict XVI concluded, “is a powerful appeal to us to make a daily rediscovery of the beauty of our faith, to understand it deeply through a more intense relationship with the Lord, and to live out our Christian vocation to the full”.

I did not say or imply anything that points toward that. Please read my earlier post to get the entirety of what I was trying to articulate.

I don’t know. We should take John XXIII’s and Paul VI’s statements, as well as the explanations of the post-Conciliar Popes, as our guide on that. For my personal part, Vatican II is extremely ambiguous–to me the raw documents seem more like a theological and literary treatise than anything–and so I leave it to others to decide the point of it. With few exceptions, Vatican II can hardly be called “clear” from my perspective. My understanding is rooted in the Catechism, as Pope Benedict recommends, which I am now reading entirely. I, too, recommend this. :thumbsup:

There was zero that was extremely ambiguous. Has its message and purpose been distorted by some? Definitely. I was there before and after and in Catholic school and in Religion class. Nothing was ambiguous. And we had priests and nuns to answer our questions.

What? Are there people out there who think we just walked into Religion class one day, and our nun/teacher said, “Oh, by the way. The Second Vatican Council is going on” followed by the sounds of crickets?

I’m catching a negative vibe about Vatican II that has nothing to do with Vatican II. I mean, we’re on the internet. But some make it sound like all the documents were written in hieroglyphics or similar.


Pope Benedikt’s recollection of Vatican II (

It was a moment of extraordinary expectation. Great things were about to happen. The previous Councils had almost always been convoked for a precise question to which they were to provide an answer. This time there was no specific problem to resolve.

He acknowledges that the council was not convoked in the face of a particular issue or heresy. However the Council expected to address the Church’s position in the world.

But precisely because of this, a general sense of expectation hovered in the air: Christianity, which had built and formed the Western world, seemed more and more to be losing its power to shape society. It appeared weary and it looked as if the future would be determined by other spiritual forces.

Pope Benedikt explains what aggiornamento describes - that the church must update it’s relationship to and with the world.

The sense of this loss of the present on the part of Christianity, and of the task following on from that, was well summed up in the word “aggiornamento” (updating).

The Church was to be brought into the present - so doctrine and dogma did not need to be changed, just placed in context.

**Christianity must be in the present if it is to be able to form the future. So that it might once again be a force to shape the future, John XXIII had convoked the Council without indicating to it any specific problems or programs. **This was the greatness and, at the same time, the difficulty of the task that was set before the ecclesial assembly.

I guess this is what pastoral means…

Sounds kinda important doesn’t it;)


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