In previous issues of AD 2000 I have maintained that the Second Vatican Council taught infallibly that people have a right, within due limits, to the private and public practice of their religion, even when their beliefs are erroneous.
If, on the contrary, this teaching of the Council were not infallible, that would mean it could possibly be wrong.
Let's consider the implications if it were wrong. This would mean that an Ecumenical Council had not merely taught error, but had told the Catholic faithful (and indeed the whole world) that something was good and right which was actually against God 's law!
This was done after careful consideration by the bishops, and approved by an overwhelming majority, receiving the assent of two thousand three hundred and eight of the Council Fathers, with seventy negative votes. It was then endorsed by the Pope, who ordered it promulgated throughout the world.
Father Brian Harrison OS (September AD2000) gives two reasons for rejecting my position.
The first is that "very few theologians" would agree with it. Were we living in normal times this would be a serious objection but in the crazy theological world of today there is widespread rebellion against Church authority by numerous prestigious theologians. In the case of Vatican II, many on both the so-called right and the so-called left are unwilling to accept the Council's teaching on numerous points.
Father Harrison's second reason is that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has placed the teaching on religious liberty in the category of authentic but not infallible doctrine. I am usually in agreement with Father Harrison, but I disagree with his interpretation here.
The CDF was responding to Archbishop Lefebvre's rejection of Vatican II's position, and in saying "docility and assent " are required was naming the minimum needed for his return to communion with the Church. Had they told him he must hold the doctrine "definitively" this would have been too stringent, because it would have gone beyond what the Church has declared to be necessary.
In these cases the Church, especially since the Council, has been at great pains not to "break the bruised reed or extinguish the smoking flax"(Isaiah 42:3 Matt. 12:20) in inviting her straying children back into the fold.
Regarding James Bogle's further letter (September AD 2000), I'll just point out a serious blunder. He claims that statements of the ordinary Magisterium are never infallible. In fact, those of the ordinary universal Magisterium are infallible! See the Profession of Faith (referred to by Father Harrison) and the commentary on it issued by the CDF on 29 June 1998.
James cites Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Ludwig Ott, p. 300, but I have just looked it up, and it states precisely the opposite to what James says it states! He also cites the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition, but it also says the opposite to what he claims!
To conclude, I suggest that readers ponder the implications of the opening paragraphs of this letter.