April 30, 2001
volume 12, no. 120
Could the upcoming consistory signal another Council and another Pope?

    I first wrote the following in 1999 and now in 2001 it seems to be raising its ugly head again thanks to the modernists and those out to democratize the Church. With the recent Consistory of Cardinals this past February, more progressivists have been added to the ranks of those who are calling for a Third Council - one that would undo previous councils and render the Church weaker, taking away her universal four marks that even since Vatican II have been on shaky grounds because of the contradictions that confuse so many.

    With the Holy Father showing signs more and more of his Parkinson's disease and the rigorous schedule this soon-to-be 81-year-old Roman Pontiff has subjected himself to with the upcoming Papal trip to Greece and Syria that will be no picnic, more among the press and prelates are talking more of His Holiness resigning, of calling another council, of even the Pope himself relinquishing power that was given to him by way of Peter (cf. Matthew 16: 18-19).

    There's been a lot of talk about the next Pope and a possible Third Vatican Council. There even seems to be political manuevering to that end. Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan appeared to let it slip, at the recent European Synod of Bishops, that if he were Pope, he would call a Council of some sort. Along with Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Mechelin-Brussels (another 'candidate' for Pope), [I should point an old adage that says; he who enters a Conclave as Pope, leaves a Cardinal] seconded this notion. They stated that this 'gathering' of Bishops would be called to "loosen doctrinal and disciplinary knots" that are central issues in the Church today. These included the shortage of priests, the role of women (no doubt connected), the role of the clergy, marriage and remarriage after divorce, relations with the Eastern Orthodox, and the relationships between morality and law.

    This is no doubt music to the ears of groups like Call To Action, FutureChurch, WomanChurch, and Dignity. It appears this would solve the problems they have with the Church at present and that, essentially, they'd have a total victory over the Church and the Magisterium (the Hierarchy of the Church). And that their letter writing campaign to lobby Cardinals for the next conclave would succeed.

    However, their glee may be short-lived. Cardinal Martini didn't say, "Let's do these things" but rather "Let's talk about doing them." These leave us with the question, "What would this Council mean?"

    A Third Vatican Council is, in my opinion, inevitable. I recall that when the Patriach of Constantinople, Nestorius, taught that Mary was the mother of Christ's human nature only, the conflict was submitted to Rome for clarification. When the Emperor and the Patriarch rejected the Pope's answer (given in the spirit of collegiality) they called for a Council to 'talk about doing these things'. The Council of Ephesus.

    Once the Council was called, it would accept or condemn Nestorius' teaching and his followers. A Third Vatican Council, to address the hot issues of today, would do the same thing. Vatican III would have to come to one of three conclusions.

    1) Nothing is done. That is the Council would do nothing but talk about them. The problem is a Council wouldn't be called unless an answer was necessary. Calling a Council of the Church is no light matter, it would mean that an answer is going to be given. Nestorius wanted an answer and felt that it would be to his liking.

2) The Council would overturn "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" and allow women priests, remove the sin of artifical contraception and abortion, remove the sin of homosexual activity, in short, approve all of the list of demands set down by Call To Action and it's satellite organizations.

    Now, whereas this is the expected outcome by Call To Action, et al, it isn't necessarily the case. In order for this outcome to occur, the Third Vatican Council would have to reject almost every other Council of the Church, from the first Council of Jerusalem (ref. Acts 15) to Vatican II.

    To allow women priests, and overturn Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, the Third Vatican Council would have to reject Vatican I and Vatican II. ". . . the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, acting in the office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, possesses through the Divine assistance promised to him in the person of St. Peter, the infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are therefore irreformable because of their nature, but not because of the agreement of the Church." (First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ; Vatican I)

    " In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra....this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment." (Lumen Gentium [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church], Chap 3, #25)

    This would also affect their assertion that any and all theologians are to be consulted as well as the 'opinion' of the 'People of God'. So, on a number of 'hot issues', in order to change Church teaching, Vatican III would have to say that Vatican I and II (among others) were anathema, condemned as wrong. Yet, in order for Vatican III to be valid, it would have to embrace these and all other Councils. So, it's doubtful that this Council would do this since to do so would mean that this Council would be invalid as well.

    Nestorius felt he was on solid ground and the Council of Ephesus would approve his teachings even though they went against the practice of the Church for centuries before.

3) The Third Vatican Council would declare the agenda of Call To Action anathema, and excommunicate (officially) anyone who adhered to it.

    This is a more likely outcome. Up to this 'hypothetical' Council, the Church tried to treat dissidents with the spirit of collegiality, to try to come to a concensus as Catholics seeking the truth together. But, in rejecting the teachings of Rome and calling for a Council, they forced the Church's hand. Either the Church accepts their doctrines or it condemns them. Considering that if the Coucil accepted them they'd a) have to reject all other Councils of the Church and b) open the door for even their Council to be rejected later (by rejecting other Councils, they would say that even their Council was open to rejection whenever the mood hit them). The spirit of collegiality would have to be set aside.

    The Council of Ephesus declared Mary the Theotokos, the God-bearer, the Mother of God. This directly opposed Nestorius' teaching, and made it anathema, a heresy. Those, including Nestorius, who continued to maintain that Mary was only the mother of Christ's human nature, were outside the Church. Nestorius had forced the Church's hand. Rather than submitting to the Pope's letter, correcting him in the spirit of collegiality, he forced the Church to condemn him by calling for a Council.

    Now, this may not be the end of it. Call To Action's likely response to this 'rejection' would be to declare the Council invalid. That it didn't have the authority to declare this since it isn't an 'Ecumenical' Council. They would either declare, as they do with Humanae Vitae, that the orthodox 'stole' the Council somehow, OR that unless a united Church (including the Eastern Orthodox and, presumably, the 'separated' churches) held the Council, that it was invalid.

    This was the tact of the Eastern Churches during the Eighth Ecumenical Council (which they don't consider an Ecumenical Council) creating the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Great Schism. Then, as now, politics played a large part in their decision to separate from the Church of Rome, the See of Peter. Then, as now, the Council forced them to either accept or reject the authority of the Church. So, a Third Vatican Council may well mean another schism. And like then, we would have, for example, the Roman Catholic Church in America (loyal to the Pope and Magisterium) and the American Catholic Church (which would follow the example of other 'national' churches in Eastern Orthodoxy and the Church of England.)

    So, this call for a Vatican III may not be the cure-all envisioned by Call To Action and other dissidents. It may well mean the end for them as 'Catholic' organizations. Let us hope the upcoming Consistory will not even consider such a scenario despite the progressivist prelates who are pushing for it and have reached key offices within the Church. Rather, let us not just hope, let us pray it won't happen for the sake of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Pax Christi,

Pat Ludwa

For past columns by Pat Ludwa, see VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives

April 30, 2001
volume 12, no. 120
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW column
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