More on Vatican II

More on Vatican II

Peter D. Howard

I have highlighted several developments of doctrine in Vatican II in my previous letter (September AD2000). Dr Frank Mobbs has stated that none of these are infallible. He gives two reasons.

His reasons I submit are misconceived because the words he claims are missing, 'definitive' and 'define', 'or any equivalent to those expressions' are simply not required in the Vatican I dogma which declares papal infallibility as exercised when the Roman Pontiff defines a doctrine and states that he possesses 'that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith and morals.'

Indeed, Lumen Gentium (LG), 25, affirms that bishops in an Ecumenical Council 'proclaim infallibly' the doctrine of Christ when they agree that a 'teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely', and that the Pope exercises infallibility when 'he proclaims in an absolute decision'.

Fr Brian Harrison, in showing that Dr Mobbs' chosen words such as 'define' are 'by no means necessary' translates 'definitivo actu proclamat' (from LG 25) as 'proclaims by definitive act' (The Ex Cathedra Status of Humanae Vitae, p 21, footnote 52).

Dr Mobbs' second reason is that the 1917 Code of Canon Law (1323.3) stated that 'Nothing is to be understood as declared or dogmatically defined, unless that fact is manifestly established.' It is a footnote to LG 25. He then erroneously claims that 'this rule is repeated in the present 1983 Code.'

In fact, the 1983 revision of Canon Law replaced 1323.3 by Canon 749.3 which substituted 'dogmatically (dogmatice) declared or defined' with 'infallibly defined'.

This removes any occasion for equating 'infallible' with 'dogmatic', an equation which falsely limits papal infallibility, and recognises the certainty in LG 25 (and Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1973, CDF) of the affirmation of the Church's infallibility as extending 'as far as the deposit of divine Revelation, to guard it religiously and faithfully expound it' Harrison, see pp. 11,12).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#88) in its 1997 English translation states, 'The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, ... in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith or also when it proposes in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.'

I am not able to declare conclusively whether the doctrinal developments in Vatican II are or are not infallible. However, Dr Mobbs' two reasons against their infallibility do not help. We should be able to accept that the declaration of a doctrine infallibly requires 'a definitive act' within the conditions in the Vatican I dogma and LG 25.

Springwood, Qld

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