In Michael Gilchrist's admirable review of the 25 years of Pope John Paul's pontificate (October AD2000), I question his notion that Paul VI "struggled to manage the centrifugal forces unleashed by Vatican II ...".
The centripetal forces of Vatican II were the centrepiece that limited the forces which tried to use the Council for their own ends, and continue today to misrepresent it with "the spirit of Vatican II" and "loyal dissent". The triumph of the Council was in thwarting the designs of the dissenters in its proclamations.
In opening the Council, Pope John XXIII stated: "The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council" was that "this certain and unchangeable doctrine, to which the obedience of Faith must be given, be studied thoroughly and explained in the way for which our times are calling ... but nevertheless with the same meaning and the same sense."
These words were "incredibly falsified" in the Abbott-Gallagher translation to read that this doctrine is to be "studied and expounded through the methods of research and through literary forms of modern thought ..." (Msgr E. Kevane, Creed & Catechetics, 1978, p 279).
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) defined (25): "This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect ...". This is a development of doctrine which has enabled dissent to be much more clearly seen.
That "the sole Church of Christ ... subsists in the Catholic Church" (8), Fr Hardon describes as "unequivocal" (i.e., clearly defined), "for the first time in conciliar history"; the Church is thus not one of many branches. Similarly, "collegial infallibility ... marks a turning point in doctrinal history." (See The Catholic Catechism, 1975, Doubleday, p 213, 232-233).
On salvation, says Fr Hardon, two "streams of doctrine were delicately welded into a composite whole" (p 235) in Lumen Gentium's statement: "Hence, they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it" (14).
Vatican II's Declaration on Religious Liberty may be summarised, according to Fr Brian Harrison, as: "Non-Catholics have a right to immunity from coercion in propagating their religion publicly (to the extent that it does not violate public order). This development of doctrine constitutes a change of emphasis; makes explicit what was implicit, and clarifies former obscurity or ambiguity". (See Religious Liberty & Contraception, 1988).
PETER D. HOWARD