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French priest and liturgist: Abp. Viganò can help other prelates talk about ‘defective points of Vatican II’

There has been an ongoing discussion between Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Athanasius Schneider about the Second Vatican Council.
Mon Jun 22, 2020 - 3:15 pm EST
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Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò speaks at the Rome Life Forum in May 2018.

June 22, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Abbé Claude Barthe, a French diocesan priest who lives in Paris and who is a liturgy expert, author, and editor, has responded to the recent interventions of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò concerning the Second Vatican Council and its problems. In an intervention published by our Italian colleague Marco Tosatti (see full text below), the French priest says now that Viganò's example could encourage other prelates to come out into the public with their own disagreements with certain teachings of that Council.

After a thoughtful review of the Italian archbishop's arguments in this matter, Abbé Barthe states that “some prelates, above all after the last synodal assemblies, have been led to trace the consequences of the present situation back to their causes, which were established half a century ago. Your example and your encouragement can help them to express, in conscience, for the good of the Church, their disagreement with these causes: the defective points of Vatican II.”

As we had reported earlier, Archbishop Viganò had thanked Bishop Athanasius Schneider for his June 1 statement, according to which the controversial Abu Dhabi statement signed by Pope Francis – and which states that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God” – has its roots in the Second Vatican Council's endorsement of a natural right to religious liberty and thus the concept of a natural right to believe in a false religion.

Schneider was responding to an analysis of this Abu Dhabi statement as presented by Cardinal Gerhard Müller. Some of his statements are presented here. The German cardinal had described a way of interpretation of this papal document that could be less controversial. Among other things, he had stressed the important duty of “any religious or civil authority” of accepting “the fundamental, supranational human right to religious freedom,” while at the same time insisting that this does not mean a relativism with regard to the revealed truth. For him, the controversial statement concerning the diversity of religions as willed by God “can” be read in a relativistic manner, but it “must not” be done this way. One should, he explained, “interpret” the text and its hermeneutic and terminology “with a view on the good intention of their authors rather than with a view on the academic precision in its expressions.”

In response, Bishop Schneider made two interventions, one on June 1, the other on June 8. It was the first intervention that prompted Archbishop Viganò to make his own statement regarding the Second Vatican Council. 

Schneider stated on June 1 that the Abu Dhabi document is wrong in declaring that God positively wills the diversity of religions. In that statement, Schneider discussed some problems regarding the Second Vatican Council's teaching on religious freedom which might need a future correction, just as  in the past, conciliar statements of previous centuries have been corrected.

“There is no divine positive will or natural right to the diversity of religions,” he then insisted. In his second article, the Kazakh prelate of German origin also disagreed with the claim that Catholics and Muslims believe in the same God, a claim which is an underlying assumption of the Abu Dhabi document. According to Bishop Schneider, Catholics and Muslims do not share a common faith in God, nor do they have a common adoration of God, especially since the Muslims reject the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity.

It was this explicit critique of a statement of the Second Vatican Council – the endorsement of religious liberty – that compelled Archbishop Viganò to publish a June 10 statement strongly criticizing the Second Vatican Council. 

“If we do not recognize,” he then wrote, “that the roots of these deviations are found in the principles laid down by the Council, it will be impossible to find a cure: if our diagnosis persists, against all the evidence, in excluding the initial pathology, we cannot prescribe a suitable therapy.” 

On June 15, the Italian prelate followed up on his first intervention, coming out even stronger by stating that those “heretical propositions or those which favor heresy” of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) “should be condemned, and we can only hope that this will happen as soon as possible.” He added that the Council should then be altogether “dropped” and “be forgotten.” 

He makes his own the following words of an Italian Law Professor, Paolo Pasqualucci: “If the Council has deviated from the Faith, the Pope has the power to invalidate it. Indeed, it is his duty.” 

It is here that Abbé Barthe's own intervention comes in. For this French priest, this last June 15 statement by Archbishop Viganò is of “great interest for the Church.” He then sums up the prelate's own analysis of the Vatican Council, which has to be done in light of what the “preceding doctrine” of the Church has been. Here, especially the conciliar texts Dignitatis Humanae (religious freedom) and Nostra Aetate (new relationship with non-Christian religions) come to mind. 

Abbé Barthe also discusses Archbishop Viganò’s statement that Vatican II, due to its deviations and ambiguities, should be annulled altogether. For this to be done, explains the priest, one needs to confirm Vatican II was pastoral, not doctrinal, in nature. Here, he is able to show that “the organs of the Council itself (Dz 4351) and all of its successive interpretations held that this Council was of a merely ‘pastoral’ nature, that is, not dogmatic.” 

For him, it would be a way out of our current crisis by insisting again on dogmatic teachings, away from the pastoral ones. He states: “In fact, the great way out of the present magisterial crisis is to come out of what is called the 'pastoral' and to enter once again into dogmatics: that the Pope alone or the pope and the bishops united to him express themselves magisterially and no longer ‘pastorally.’” The pastoral approach, as we might add, has shown to be much more prone to doctrinal heterodoxies, as Amoris Laetitia has shown us clearly. 

It is here that Abbé Barthe echoes Archbishop Viganò’s call for other prelates to join Bishop Schneider and him in an honest debate about the problems of Vatican II, for the sake of the Church and the salvation of souls. 

“A duty of conscience therefore weighs on the prelates of the Church who are aware of this situation,” the French priest writes, summing up Viganò and adding that his words could be an encouragement for others. As Viganò recently told Dr. Robert Moynihan, “I tried to go further down to understand why we have reached this situation...I am just trying to follow my conscience.” 

As Moynihan presented Viganò's position, he explained about the Second Vatican Council that “sometimes that interpretation was not keeping with the perennial tradition of the Church. In arguing this, Vigano is agreeing with the work of another bishop, Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, who has been presenting this thesis on a number of occasions in recent years.”

And then comes the important statement from Archbishop Viganò: “Schneider was before me in realizing this. I have come to agree with him.” 

It is to be hoped that other prelates and priests will now join this debate, and we thank Abbé Barthe for his own intervention.

Please see here the full statement of Abbé Barthe. We thank Marco Tosatti for the permission to reprint.

Allow me to respond to Your Excellency’s “Excursus on Vatican II and Its Consequences” (Chiesa e post concilio, 9 June 2020), in order to emphasize, in all modesty, its great interest for the Church.

Permit me to summarize it in five points:

1) Vatican II contains texts “in clear opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Tradition.”

Your attack on Vatican II is aimed at the following:

– That which is in direct disagreement with preceding doctrine, such as the religious freedom of the declaration Dignitatis Humanae and the foundations of the new relationship with non-Christian religions of the declaration Nostra Aetate (we could also add the decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, n.3, which introduces the innovation of the idea of the “imperfect communion” that those separated from Christ and from Church are said to have with Christ and the Church,);

– The ambiguities that can be used in the sense of truth or error, such as the term “subsistit” in n. 8 of the Constitution Lumen Gentium: “The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church” instead of “The Church of Christ is the Catholic Church.”

2) These doctrinal distortions are at the origin of the errors that followed them – the proof of the “spirit of the Council.”

You explain that the deviations or the most harmful elements for the faith of Christians that mark the post-conciliar period (you cite the Abu Dhabi Declaration, but also the Day in Assisi, the liturgical reform, the use of collegiality) have their origins in these distortions.

Further, from this text it clearly emerges that the concept of the “spirit of the Council” confirms the innovative specificity of this assembly, because “there was never talk of a “spirit of the Council of Nicea” or the “spirit of the Council of Ferrara-Florence,” even less the “spirit of the Council of Trent,” just as we never had a“post-conciliar” era after Lateran IV or Vatican I.”

3) These distortions cannot be corrected.

The efforts to correct the excesses of the Council, you say, are futile:

  1. One such option is to take the insufficient path of the “hermeneutic of continuity.” Much less is this possible since this hermeneutic is not a return to the preceding magisterium but represents the search for a third way between innovation and tradition. Benedict XVI, in his discourse to the Roman Curia of December 22, 2005, proposed a “hermeneutic of renewal in continuity” in opposition to the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture”; but by this latter statement he focused both on “traditionalists” as well as “progressives,” who both hold that Vatican II made a certain rupture.
  2. Or, one calls upon the Magisterium to “correct” the errors of Vatican II. You rightly show that this project, “even with the best of intentions, threatens the foundation of the Catholic edifice.” In reality, opposing the magisterium of tomorrow against that of today, which in turn contradicts the magisterium of yesterday, would end up meaning that no magisterial act would ever be definitive.

Therefore, in a further statement made on June 15 (Chiesa e post concilio), you are of the opinion that a future pope “could annul the entire council.”

If I were to be allowed to amplify your analysis, I would say that the only solution for contradicting a preceding act with a magisterial act is to note that the act in question is not magisterial in its entirety. For example, Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I in 1870 annulled the decree Frequens of the Council of Constance in 1417, which purported to institutionalize the superiority of a Council over the pope. This annulment was possible because the Holy See had never recognized the dogmatic value of Frequens. In the same way, with Vatican II we find ourselves in the same situation as Frequens, because the organs of the Council itself (Dz 4351) and all of its successive interpretations held that this Council was of a merely “pastoral” nature, that is, not dogmatic. In fact, the great way out of the present magisterial crisis is to come out of what is called the “pastoral” and to enter once again into dogmatics: that the Pope alone or the pope and the bishops united to him express themselves magisterially and no longer “pastorally.”

4) – The present pontificate is clearly paradoxical.

You write: “What we have for years heard enunciated, vaguely and without clear connotations, from the highest Throne, we then find elaborated in a true and proper manifesto in the supporters of the present Pontificate.”

This is what many who have tried to give a pious interpretation to the controversial texts of Vatican II feel: they recognize that this is not possible because of the somewhat authentic application that is being done today. The texts of this pontificate are the culmination of the controversial points of the council, such as for example the erroneous recognition of the rights of conscience in the exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which in n. 301 affirms that in certain circumstances adultery is not a sin.

5) A duty of conscience therefore weighs on the prelates of the Church who are aware of this situation.

Speaking of yourself, you say: “Just as I honestly and serenely obeyed questionable orders sixty years ago, believing that they represented the loving voice of the Church, so today with equal serenity and honesty I recognize that I have been deceived. Being coherent today by persevering in error would represent a wretched choice and would make me an accomplice in this fraud.”

Some prelates, above all after the last synodal assemblies, have been led to trace the consequences of the present situation back to their causes, which were established half a century ago. Your example and your encouragement can help them to express, in conscience, for the good of the Church, their disagreement with these causes: the defective points of Vatican II.

Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino @pellegrino2020

Abbé Barthe is the co-founder of the magazine Catholica; and he runs the newsletter Res novae, which is linked to the magazine L'Homme nouveau, which has an English edition.

He also authored different books, one of them having received a preface of Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Here are some titles:

Trouvera-t-Il encore la foi sur la terre? Une crise de l’Eglise, histoire et questions, François-Xavier de Guibert, 2006, 3rd edition
Histoire du missel tridentin et de ses origines, 2016
La Messe de Vatican II. Dossier historique, Via Romana, 2018
La Messe, une forêt de symboles. Préface du Cardinal Sarah, Via Romana, dernière édition 2020


  abu dhabi document, athanasius schneider, carlo maria viganò, catholic, vatican ii

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