30 November 2015

Obeying the Council: the importance of submission to Councils

It is, I hope we would all agree, extremely important that the Council, like all Ecumenical Councils, should be treated with respect and its wishes put into effect.

This is why I am disturbed that some Jews, and some Moslems, are allowed to go around without being distinctively dressed so that it can be seen who is Jewish, who is Moslem, who is Christian. I also have a suspicion that some Jews may even go outside their homes during the Christian Sacred Triduum. This is clearly both illegal and disgraceful, since it is explicitly forbidden by the Council, and with great emphasis.

And, moreover, the SSPX is to blame for not rigorously demanding, in season and out of season, that Jews and Moslems should always wear their distinctive dress.  I cannot recall a single SSPX document which adequately emphasises this important decree of the Council. Frankly, this raises difficult questions about the SSPX itself. Since it so manifestly treats important enactments of the Council with apparent indifference, it is important that it should be denied faculties, and kept at arm's length, until it unambiguously undertakes to do all it can to embrace and enforce the Conciliar decrees regarding Jewish and Moslem dress, down the the last comma, the last detail.  Frankly, I blame Bishop Fellay for this indiscipline. He is a man who, to my knowledge, has never spoken loudly and publicly enough about the importance of the distinctive dress which should be worn by Jews and Moslems. Can you show me one single statement of his about the need for all Moslem women, as the Conciliar Canon implies, to wear the hijab? No group can truly expect to be in good standing unless its submission to the Council, as to all the Church's Ecumenical Councils, is total, unequivocal, and ex animo.

It is not as though the Council to which I am today referring [Lateran IV (vide Canonem LXXXIX); it closed on November 30 1215] is some minor Council. Because of the large numbers of bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs which attended it, it was sometimes called The Great Council. It promulgated the Dogma of Transsubstantiation. Could any Council be more important than Lateran IV?

I hope nobody, on the thread, will dare to speak slightingly about the duty of all Catholics to accept without question every jot and tittle of Lateran IV, as of every other Council. Moreover, its Spirit, easily collected and inferred from its canons about the exclusion of Jews from public life and the iniquity of their usurious behaviour, not to mention the problems of miscegenation, is also something which it is the duty of all Catholics to accept with enthusiasm. Isn't it? You know I'm right.


We live in a dangerous world, in which some people tend to be or pretend to be depressingly blind to literary genre. I hope no reader of this blog is so blind as to fail to detect my irony all through the above piece. I neither like nor subscribe to the teaching of Lateran IV about the Jews as being suitable to our time, nor do I condemn the SSPX for being lukewarm about that teaching. My view on Councils, prescinding from those Conciliar decrees (with attached anathemas) which strictly define dogma, is that their teachings and edicts, even if appropriate to the time of the Council itself, which I believe one is at liberty to doubt, gradually merge into the quiet background noise of the life of the Church. I have no doubt that this applies to Lateran Canon 89 as much as it does to Vatican II Dignitatis humanae. But both of these were completely 'valid' Ecumenical Councils; a truth which, I believe, no Catholic is allowed question. I also believe that no Catholic should read the non-dogmatic texts of any Council, or of any Roman Pontiff, without applying a contextualising nuance. Catholics are not fundamentalists. Councils, and popes, when not defining dogma, can, quite simply, be wrong. Especially fifty or more years after their time.


Pax--Tecum said...

Father, you are right. It is indeed very strange to expect that the FSSPX adheres to every single sentence of every single document of Vatican II, while at the same time the entire Church ignores (parts of) other Councils.

"Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? [...] But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (St. Matthew 15:1-3)

Patrick Sheridan said...

Such are the wonders of multicultural Britain that one only needs to go to Stamford Hill or Woolwich to see droves of Jews and Muslims in distinctive dress, but they don't appear to be obeying the decrees of mediaeval popes.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

If a man searches the online Catholic Encyclopedia, he will not be able to locate social doctrine either as its own entry or within the entry, Doctrine, Christian which makes ABS wonder if any of the putative social doctrines are binding.

And if a current doctrine appears to be different than a previous doctrine then which of the two ais binding?

Perhaps the former was binding at the time whereas DH is binding now but that just means that doctrine has changed and it is not supposed to change.

After thinking about this ,ABS is considering changing his wait-until-five-for-a-drink-doctrine

Gadfly said...

Future Catholic generations will look askance at "Dignitatis humanae" and ask themselves how an ecumenical council could adopt a document, the very title of which, implies a denial of original sin and man's fall from grace.

Matthew Roth said...

There is a conference on DH in the fall at Norcia.

Stephen said...

You just must have written that explanation at the end for any Yale man who might been reading your blog.

Jacobi said...

Thanks for the tip, Father, have looked up the IV Lateran and it is astonishingly relevant to today's world, unlike the V Lateran, which was a mess, but not as bad as Vat II, a complete mess.

Leo III was concerned with Islamic invasion of much of the Christian Bible lands, as we are, or should be, today. And with true ecumenism, that is, with the Orthodox.

In the various canons he dealt with issues again relevant today, The Real Presence, Sacraments of Confession, the Last Rites and of course Marriage, and on the reality of heresy, the position of the Successor of Peter and his relations with bishops, Patriarchs and local “National” bishops councils.

And there's much to be said for different religious groups identifying themselves. I'm happy to wear a Crucifix, and don't care much for this idea that we'll all, nicely merge. As for Jews, always had a soft spot for them since NS days . “Fall out the Roman Catholics and Jews” It really did happen you know, and we enjoyed a relaxed smoke together behind the Cathedral while the poor C of E's had to march glumly in.

I'm also looking to borrow a skull cap for a while and, a Jewish one would do, but that's another story.

Dan Hunter said...

Excellent Father!

I hear some "background noise" right now... Oh its only my tummy growling.

Viva "Dignitatis Humanae"!

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant, Father.

Anonymous said...

@Simon Reilly, that sounds as though you uphold the Calvinist and Jansenist teaching that Original Sin results in the utter depravity and corruption of human nature. That's not what the Catholic faith teaches. Human dignity derives from Christ, for whose sake and in whose likeness, no matter how damaged, we are all made. "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me".

Daenerys of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name said...

Hilarious stuff. Some excruciating irony there, especially for those 'legal positivists' in the Church today who continue to demonise the FSSPX through the language of anathema.

John said...

In 1960 Sheed & Ward put out a handy little book (225 pages) called "The Church in Council" by E.I.Watkin. It gives a neat little history of each of the Church's councils with the historical context of each. Basel is there, too, even if in parenthesis. There are quite a few counciliar decrees over the past two millennia that are highly unlikely to be put into practice any time soon. (Got the men and women separated on opposite sides of your church? Thought not.)

Philippe Martin said...

Excellent. This one has been an eyes opener. Or put otherwise, the last coin necessary to definitively free myself off the implicit V2 superdogma syndrome.

gsk said...

@John: thanks, just ordered it!

James the Convert said...

Please explain why Vatican II was self-described as a "pastoral council", the first of it's kind? If it's not "dogmatic" or "doctrinal", does that which is not dogma and doctrine, carry the same weight?

Given the numerous ambiguities of said council can it go the way of councils like Pisa?

...asking for a friend ;)