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James Bogle's description of Vatican II as a "pastoral Council" needs clarification, especially as some call it "only pastoral".
The term "pastoral council" as applied to Vatican II is merely a popular description and does not refer to any specific type of council recognised by the authority of the Catholic Church. There are traditionally councils, or synods, which are styled "national councils," "provincial councils" or "general (ecumenical)" councils, but none styled specifically a "pastoral council."
Pope John XXIII himself, in using the word, spoke of the need of a Church Magisterium "which is predominantly pastoral in character." Pope Paul VI similarly spoke of the "pastoral nature of the Council" in his Weekly General Audience of 12 January 1966, but he didn't call it a "pastoral council".
Vatican II has two Dogmatic Constitutions - the same as Vatican I which issued the dogma on papal infallibility in defining doctrine. In Vatican II, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ( Lumen Gentium) #25 teaches that bishops "proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ ... when ... in their authoritative teaching on faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitely and absolutely.
"This is still more clearly the case when, assembled in an ecumenical council ... whose decisions must be adhered to with the loyal and obedient assent of faith." Fr John A. Hardon SJ describes this as "collegial infallibility" marking "a turning point in doctrinal history" (The Catholic Catechism, 1975, Doubleday, pp. 232233).
The Council defined that the assent of will and intellect are required of non-infallible papal teaching, for the first time (LG 25), and that Christ's Church was as indispensable as Christ for the salvation of all mankind (LG 38, op. cit., p. 236).
Of Lumen Gentium #8, that "the sole Church of Christ ... subsists in the Catholic Church", Fr Hardon declares this is "unequivocal for the first time in conciliar history" - namely the Church is not one of many branches (p. 213).
Pope Benedict XVI, as a cardinal, assessed the Council in these words: "Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two Councils [Trent and Vatican I] and thereby detaches them from their foundation. To defend the true tradition of the Church today means to defend the Council, [namely] the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them" (The Ratzinger Report, Ignatius 1985, pp. 28-31).
PETER D. HOWARD
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 23 No 9 (October 2010), p. 14
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