August 24, 2020 (MarcoTosatti.com) – The following letter by Cardinal Joseph Zen is a response to some observations made by Prof. Roberto De Matttei regarding the Cardinal’s reaction to opening a debate about the Vatican II council.
Permit me, Prof. Roberto de Mattei:
I think that everyone knows that here in Hong Kong we are in full battle against the power that wants to completely dominate us, even our words and thoughts.
Blessed are those who can say what they think, without worrying about whether the authorities are in agreement.
The writer has been evaluated by someone as being partially right and partially wrong. Professor De Mattei praises me because I am protesting against the Ostpolitik of the Vatican with regard to the Church in China, but criticizes me because I defend the Second Vatican Council.
I thank him for the praise and I respond to the criticism (with his permission).
‘Teachings of the Ecumenical Councils are supremely authoritative’
I have not studied Vatican II as deeply as Professor De Mattei, but from my simple faith (not naïve, not acritical), I maintain that the teachings of the Ecumenical Councils are supremely authoritative, and I cannot think that a part of it will end up one day “in the rubbish bin” (I think that in this Cardinal Brandmüller agrees with me).
Nor do I think that is right to judge certain conciliar texts as “cumbersome and ambiguous.” Obviously certain texts are fruits of a strenuous work to reach an almost total consensus of the Conciliar assembly, and in the process some had to renounce what they had thought was already mature or ready to be pronounced, while the majority judged that it was premature or not opportune to make a pronouncement: they were conclusions of compromise if you like, but not ambiguous. The omission of something which some believed would have enriched the conciliar teaching does not in itself make that teaching ambiguous.
The pastoral methodological change does not necessarily affect the content of the discourse.
The Professor says that “according to the new pastoral spirit, the way in which doctrine is presented is more important than doctrine itself.” Such a proposition can be misunderstood, as if the mode of presentation is more important than the doctrine itself, as if the need to present a doctrine well could lead to a change of doctrine.
In the opening speech of the Council Pope John said: “The principal purpose of this council is not the discussion of this or that topic of the fundamental doctrine of the Church…. But rather of the renewed, serene, and tranquil adhesion to the entire teaching of the Church in its entirety and precision….It is necessary that this certain and immutable doctrine, which ought to be faithfully respected, be deepened and presented in such a way that it responds to the needs of our time.” Thus, it is not that the presentation is more important than doctrine, it is that now we are focusing on studying the presentation (while doctrine is supposed to be secure already).
‘The Council was the occasion to attempt the policy of Ostpolitik’
Having said this in general, we come now to some details:
(A) The Professor says that Ostpolitik is a daughter of the Council. No! The Council was the occasion to attempt the policy of Ostpolitik. It did not seem tolerable to completely ignore the existence of communist regimes, to do nothing to come to the help of our brothers. Unfortunately, the effort was begun having almost no information about the situation behind the Iron Curtain. The tragedy was the illusion, afterwards, of having had a great success: of having placed the ecclesiastical hierarchy in these countries on its feet.
Cardinal Parolin says: “When we looked for candidates for the episcopacy we looked for shepherds, not gladiators, not those who systematically oppose the government, not those who seek to promote themselves in the political arena.”
The fact is that these bishops, too often, were slaves of the atheist regime instead of being pastors of the Christian flock!
(B) The Professor says that the speech given by John XXIII at the opening of the council was the magna carta of the policy of détente: from anathema to dialogue…setting aside decades of condemnation…to the strategy of the outstretched hand…to collaboration with the enemy.
Yes, the Pope said this candidly. But, beware, détente does not mean giving up; setting aside the condemnations (refraining from anathemas) does not mean approving the errors (The council “did not say one word about communism,” says the Professor). But one would have to be blind to not see a long and clear discourse on atheism, including systematic atheism, and the approach of the Church towards this, beginning with “the Church cannot help but reprove …with all firmness and with sorrow such pernicious doctrines and actions” (was it really necessary to explicitly say “Marxist communism”?)
“Outstretched hand” and “collaboration” does not mean letting oneself be killed by the enemy (as the Vatican is doing now, unfortunately not without the consent of the Pope).
I also collaborated with the communists; I taught for seven years in many seminaries under their control. They could boast of having opened the door, but I had the real and complete opportunity to teach hundreds of seminarians sound philosophical and theological doctrine, without watering it down.
‘I am conservative, but not to the extreme’
The Professor is concerned that by supporting the Second Vatican Council I will lose supporters for my cause (the defense of the true Catholic faith in China). I hope not. I am not in agreement with Archbishop Viganò in his not accepting Vatican II, but I support him in his call for the Vatican to respond to his accusations about the facts.
After all, if someone wants to stop supporting me because of what I have said here, I am sorry, but I cannot do anything about it: I am conservative, but not to the extreme.
Translated by Giuseppe Pellegrino