Vatican II - rhine flows into the tiber


so i picked up a copy of “rhine flows into the tiber” and reading about the background to the council and how some of the constitutions and decrees came into being is kind of disturbing me. it seems like the european alliance pretty much dominated all theological thought and had a monopoly on all that went on. i’m having a hard time seeing the holy spirit at work through some of these bishops.


Not sure what your point is here so seeking clarification. Most popes to date have been European. Do you have a hard time seeing the Holy Spirit at work through some of the Cardinals that elected them? Or have you a problem specifically with European theological thought/Vatican II?


If it wasn’t error, then the Holy Spirit used it.


it’s the european thought and the alliance that Wiltgen talks about. it’s as if they had a monopoly on all theological thought in the council and created no room for the minority voice to express their opinions. some of the cardinals use some pretty shaddy tactics to have their view put forward. i know the church is a human and divine institution, but there are some parts where i’m wondering what the holy spirit was doing in all of this or if he was behind any of it.


If that’s your concern, then you should be questioning all Councils.:smiley:


So is your problem with the inerrancy of the Church?


well, the more i’ve been going over it with my professors, the less of a problem i’ve had with it. i don’t think that vatican II was a bad council or go to the extreme of some traditionalists. i just was alarmed at some of the politics and alliances going on in the council, particularly how the german bishops and theologians influenced the council in a heavy way. i think i could use some clarification on what wiltgen means when he says ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ though. being an american, i think i may be making the mistake of reading american political ideologies into it. what does he mean by the two?


You might want to read some other accounts by bishops and other who participated in it. I recommend the accounts of Fulton Sheen and Joseph Ratzinger to kind of balance things out. The book you mention to me is like being a dark room with a bunch of scary shadows. But then, when you read other accounts it’s like turning on the lights to see those scary shadows are not scary at all, but are cast from things that are completely benign.

For example, the idea to reject the original schema was not a liberal conspiracy, but rather the Council wanted to actually fulfill its canonical function and not be simply a rubber stamp for the Roman Curia. In fact, the same tensions were present at Vatican I and Trent.

European bishops usually dominate because they’re they preside over the eldest daughters of the Church–Vatican II actually had more participation from non-Italians, especially Americans, Latin Americans, and those from the Eastern rites than any other Council (surpassing the First Vatican Council greatly, and it had the most universal participation up until that point).

Likewise, read the accounts of other ecumenical councils, the ones we consider bulwarks of faith. Read what went down at the First Vatican Council–blasphemies uttered on the floor, ambiguities purposefully added to make different groups happy (why do you think very few people can actually understand beyond a couple examples when papal infallibility actually applies?) and bishops walking out rather than be part of it. Likewise, what happened at the first few ecumenical councils was no less scandalous. Read what Saints like Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen had to say. Councils always have factions fighting against each other, some underhanded things going down occasionally, and a general overall sense of confusion. The decrees and whatnot are always filled with compromise.

And sadly, there are also some who attack or completley renounce the authority of Councils and set out on their own when their viewpoint is not the one adopted instead of humbly accepting the judgment of the all the most qualified and authorized judges of the Church instead of their own opinions. We see this after many Councils, sadly.


I was told by a Catholic friend that the innerancy of the Church is only on matters of doctrine and scriptural interpretation. Wouldn’t that mean that Church Councils could make errors on other issues? Or are they supposed to be infallibly correct in all things they say?


Researches. Hmm . . . maybe I was wrong on that. I have heard that Vatican II was a pastoral council though, and did not declare its own statements to be dogma.


The Second Vatican Council does not make any solemn dogmatic definitions that previously did not have to be believed with a divine and Catholic faith, but it does deal heavily in explaining the doctrine of the Church, especially the dogma concerning the nature and constitution the Church herself.

But for the most part, it enunciates certain disciplinary and policy measures for the Church to take in a variety of areas of modern life. This can’t be in error, because they are not divinely revealed truth in the first place. They may or may not produce the fruits that are intended and they are reformable as the circumstances warrant it.

Like the Second Vatican Council, almost all other councils (except for the First Vatican, because war cut it short) reform practices and approaches of the Church to address contemporary problems. These are not irreformable because they are not dealing with proclaiming timeless truths, but rather with applying those truths to time-specific situations.


The Magisterium to whom protection of Tradition and Scripture has been entrusted by the Holy Spirit is comprised of the bishops and the pope. In other words, it is the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church, who met in council. No new doctrines were issued. They came to address the numerous issues confronting the Church as has been done throughout Church history starting with the Council of Jerusalem as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.
There as been much misinformation concerning Vatican II. The best source of information is the sixteen documents themselves that reaffirm what the Church has always taught.


So the council could make mistakes then, in its reforms, policies and explanations of the doctrine or dogma of the Church, right? No infallible statement was made in the Council, so traditionalist Catholics are not making a great breach from the Church in rejecting the decisions, is that correct?


Incorrect. We owe our lawful pastors religious submission of mind and will. You have to respect the supreme authority of the Church as such, even if you disagree with the approaches they choose to take.

Using the concept of infallibility here makes no sense.

The issue here is one where a lawful authority has directed the universal Church to act in a certain way and to go about evangelizing using certain methods, to use certain liturgical rites and disciplines, and as our lawful pastors we are bound to follow them. Yes, these things can change, but we are bound to them until the lawful authority changes them.

You can’t willy nilly choose whether or not to obey. As Christ said, “whoever hears you, hears me.”

Let me explain also why there is a sin involved here from so-called traditionalists. This is from an old catechism:

Q. Is it a great sin to refuse submission to a general Council?
A. It is the greatest act of criminal pride and presumption, accompanied by the awful guilt of heresy or schism, or both. We call it extremely criminal, as well as irrational; because the man who will not submit, prefers his own single opinion*—and this in a matter, regarding which he is neither qualified nor authorized to judge—*to the deliberately formed decision of an immense assemblage of the best qualified, and most competently authorized, legitimate judges.


I think some people have the wrong idea of the Holy Ghost’s operation in the Church. The Holy Ghost does not move the Bishop like chess pieces in order to accomplish His will. If the Bishops are good, and are seeking to follow the Holy Ghost and do what’s right, you can be certain that the assistance of the Holy Ghost will be there.

But the Bishops have free will. If there are bad Bishops, there is no reason to think the Holy Ghost would intervene to prevent them from promoting their agenda. The only time we can be sure that the Holy Ghost will intervene to prevent error is when a dogma is being defined by the Pope, or when a Pope is ratifying a dogmatic definition that has been defined by a council. When the extraordinary magisterium is not engaged, error is possible.

When we discuss Vatican II, we are not dealing with any new doctrinal definitions, or with the extraordinary magisterium: therefore, Papal Infallibility does not come into play. Bad Bishops were certainly free to use their will as they chose. Just as the Holy Ghost allowed the bad Bishop - Judas - to use his free will to betray Christ, so too the Holy Ghost will allow other bad Bishops to exercise their free will. We can be sure that God will eventually bring good out of their evil, but that does not mean we will not have to suffer much from what they have done in the meantime.

One Bishop I know of who was at Vatican II described it as the greatest war he had been through (and he had been through WWII). It was a war between the liberals and the conservatives. Unfortunately, as you will read in The Rine Flows into the Tiber, the liberals were much more organized than the conservatives. The liberal had a well ordered plan of attack, whereas the conservatives did not even know they were at a battle until they were in the midst of it.

This is one of the reasons for the double-speak in the council documents. The war between the two groups is clearly seen in some of the documents.

You might be interested in reading Fr. Harrison’s article titled “Skelletons in the Conciliar Closet”, which exposes some of the deceptions perpetrated by the liberals at Vatican II, such as sneaking a (heretical?) paragraph into Dignitatis Humanae before the final vote without telling anyone. Thus, the council Fathers voted on a document that contained a paragraph that was not in the one they read… and which contradicts what the Church has always taugh with regard to religious liberty.

Fr. Harrison, who is a defender of Vatican II, discovered this as he was studying the Acts of the Council.

Here’s a link to the article:


I never saw it as contradictory before. What I always read it as saying that all men must given the freedom necessary to come to the truth, and to come to it freely, and to adhere to it, and that all men have this right. But, even if they don’t search for truth, they can’t be forced to do so–this has to do with the freedom from coercion. You can’t be impeded from coming to the truth, but you can’t be forced into it either. In fact, the idea of coming to the true faith free from coercion is one that is found more expressly in past teaching (basically because there wasn’t a time until the late 19th and early 20th century when people in once Catholic nations were impeded from searching for and adhering to the true religion, while there was always opportunities to coerce people into it against there will).


Here is previous teaching on the fact that you can’t be forced into the truth:

And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, "Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will."
Pope Leo XIII

"104. Though We desire this unceasing prayer to rise to God from the whole Mystical Body in common, that all the straying sheep may hasten to enter the one fold of Jesus Christ, yet We recognize that this must be done of their own free will; for no one believes unless he wills to believe. 198] Hence they are most certainly not genuine Christians 199] who against their belief are forced to go into a church, to approach the altar and to receive the Sacraments; for the “faith without which it is impossible to please God” 200] is an entirely free “submission of intellect and will.” 201] Therefore whenever it happens, despite the constant teaching of this Apostolic See, 202] that anyone is compelled to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, Our sense of duty demands that We condemn the act. For men must be effectively drawn to the truth by the Father of light through the Spirit of His beloved Son, because, endowed as they are with free will, they can misuse their freedom under the impulse of mental agitation and base desires. Unfortunately many are still wandering far from Catholic truth, being unwilling to follow the inspirations of divine grace, because neither they 203] nor the faithful pray to God with sufficient fervor for this intention. Again and again we beg all who ardently love the Church to follow the example of the Divine Redeemer and to give themselves constantly to such prayer."
Pope Pius XII

"We decree moreover that no Christian shall compel them or any one of their group to come to baptism unwillingly. But if any one of them shall take refuge of his own accord with Christians, because of conviction, then, after his intention will have been manifest, he shall be made a Christian without any intrigue. For, indeed, that person who is known to have come to Christian baptism not freely, but unwillingly, is not believed to posses the Christian faith."
Pope Bl. Gregory X

Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect. By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.
Pope Paul III


What right? The right to follow the truth? Of course they have this right. We all have the right, and even the duty, to follow and obey the truth. In fact, those who are following the truth can even resist unjust commands of authority by appealing to their conscience. This is what true freedom of conscience is. It is the freedom to follow the well formed conscience even when authorities are forbiding it.

So, for example, a women in China can appeal to her conscience in refusing to abort her second (or is it third?) child. She may be killed for doing so, but she has every right to appeal to her consicence in refusing to submit to that unjust command.

But, no one has the “right” to appeal to their conscience when they are violating a law of God. So, for example, a women cannot appeal to her conscience in order to justify having an abortion, because murder is against God’s law. Even if she does not consider abortion to be murder, she still has no “right” to appeal to her conscience to justify her act.

True freedom of conscience only applies to those whose consciences are formed according to the objective will of God.

[quote=] But, even if they don’t search for truth, they can’t be forced to do so–this has to do with the freedom from coercion.

Right, the church never forces someone to convert. However, it is certainly allowable for the Church, or State, to prevent someone from violating a law - whether it be a Divine law, or a human law. You can’t force someone to agree with a law, but you can cetainly prevent them from violating it. That is actual the reason for law: Law is established in order to guide man in his actions so that he know what is right and what is wrong. So, while a person cannot be forced to agree with a law, he can certainly be prevented, or punished, if he violates it.

Likewise, the Church will not force someone to convert, but a Catholic State has every right to forbid the public exercise of false worship.

Do you see the difference? No one is forced to convert (which is a positive), but they can be prevented or punished for violating a law, such as the first commandment which forbids false worship.

[quote=] You can’t be impeded from coming to the truth, but you can’t be forced into it either.

Again, we would agree that no one should be converted by force. However, the State certainly has the right to forbid Muslims, Protestants, etc. from practcing their false worship in public.

The principle of “toleration” allows false worship in order to prevent a greater evil. The Church has sometimes allowed false worship in Catholic countries in order to prevent a greater evil, and sometimes the Church has forbade false worship and punished those who violated the law.

In conclusion, we agree that no one should be forced to convert, however, that does not mean that people have a “right” to violate the law of God, or the law of man, simply by appealing to their conscience.

Do we agree?


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