Robert Sungenis, Ph.D.
A Rebuttal to Professor Raymond B. Marcin
On October 11, 2006, The Remnant published an article by Raymond B. Marcin, professor of Law at Catholic University of America. Strange as it is to see a traditionalist voice coming from one of the more liberal Catholic universities in the world, this is probably due to the fact that Professor Marcin is not in the theology department but in the law department. The powers that be would never allow such a radical thesis as Marcin’s to be associated with Catholic University. As such, Marcin’s thesis is his own personal opinion and not representative of the university. In actuality, Marcin’s thesis is not representative of even many traditionalists, much less Catholic University.
Marcin’s thesis is radical. As he says himself:
“This article suggests that there was a great moral flaw – not just a moral flaw, but a great moral flaw – in the doings of the Second Vatican Council…the participants could not have been cooperating with the oversight of God the Holy Spirit.”
In essence, Marcin is proposing that, unlike the other twenty ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church, the prelates assembled at Vatican II somehow had the power to resist the promised protection of the Holy Spirit that was supposed to keep the Church from doctrinal error. A radical thesis, indeed. In the end, we will see, however, that it is Marcin’s thesis that has the “great moral flaw.” The only way we can demonstrate this is to go through his article point-by-point.
The Remnant begins the article with a picture of Pope Paul VI holding out his arms to the world, with this quote from the pope as the caption: “The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit” ...Pope Paul VI.”
Marcin: The thesis of this article will seem radical to many and will no doubt be controversial. This article suggests that there was a great moral flaw – not just a moral flaw, but a great moral flaw – in the doings of the Second Vatican Council, and that the great moral flaw contains within it an implication that the participants in the Second Vatican Council could not have been cooperating with the oversight of God the Holy Spirit. The very title of this paper might be seen as offensive to those who suggest that there cannot possibly be a “moral flaw” in the Second Vatican Council, or in any Ecumenical Council, because of the oversight of the Holy Spirit. To them, the title may even seem blasphemous. On the other hand, and possibly at the other end of the Catholic spectrum, the singularity in the title of this paper might seem a bit strange and perhaps presumptuous to those who, well-schooled in the timeless truths of the Catholic faith, have been soundly disoriented and dissatisfied with the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, and who have failed to experience the grand “springtime” of faith that the Second Vatican Council promised. Likely in the minds of those brave souls, many moral flaws were exhibited in the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, and it might seem presumptuous to identify one as the “great” moral flaw. This paper, however, suggests that there were indeed moral flaws in the Second Vatican Council, and without quarreling with the thesis that there were many moral flaws both at the Second Vatican Council and in the implementation of its documents, contends that there was indeed one “great” moral flaw – a moral flaw that underlay and served as a launching point for all the other Vatican-II and post-Vatican-II moral flaws that have been observed over the past four decades – and this “great” moral flaw is one that, if accepted at face value, threatens the very understanding of the Second Vatican Council as a “legitimate” Ecumenical Council, even casting grave and serious doubt on the proposition that God the Holy Spirit was in any way involved in overseeing the doings of the participants in the Second Vatican Council.
R. Sungenis: Here we see the author setting out a radical thesis. In contrast to most other critics, Marcin has taken the criticism of Vatican Council II to new heights, albeit a logical result for those prone to blame the council for the Church’s present problems. His thesis? That the Holy Spirit was not “in any way involved in overseeing the doings of the participants in the Second Vatican Council.” This premise will require the author to prove to us that the pope and the 2300 bishops of Vatican II, with one voice, conspired against the Catholic Church in an effort to produce teachings that were, in their essence, thoroughly anti-Catholic, and hence, blasphemous against all previous popes, bishops, saints, doctors and theologians.
There is no middle ground left by this author. If the Holy Spirit was either not present at Vatican II, or, if He was present, did not have the capability to prevent the twenty-first ecumenical council from doctrinal error, then we surely have a dire situation on our hands, unprecedented in the history of the Catholic Church. In fact, I can think of no worse situation. It is as if the devil himself has ascended from the bottomless pit and taken shape at a council of the Catholic Church. The author has essentially claimed that the entire prelature of the early 1960s was sold out to the devil, refused to listen to the Holy Spirit, and turned the Catholic Church from a sacred shrine into the pit of hell.
Again, those who adopt the author’s thesis have no neutral ground for safe haven. It is now an all or nothing game. The author is not saying that Vatican Council II merely gave the wrong pastoral advice here or there; rather, he is saying that, in the council’s reflections and teachings on the doctrinal beliefs of the Catholic Church, it not only failed to give the truth, it did so purposely, with malice of forethought. It purposely twisted or rejected previous teaching because its 2300 bishops had their own agenda to destroy the Church, and the Holy Spirit was helpless to stop them; and the same Holy Spirit was helpless to stop the Pope from putting his official stamp of approval on that very council.
Of course, claiming these extreme positions is one thing, but proving them is quite another. What proof does the author provide for his reader? Nothing except an assortment of suspicions and innuendo. Besides a stringing together of quotes from people such as Cardinal Ratzinger and Paul VI concerning their reservations about the effectiveness of the council and the rise of apostasy in the Church, respectively, the author provides no proof for his thesis. He doesn’t demonstrate one place that Vatican’s II’s doctrinal teachings go against previous doctrinal teaching. Not one. Instead, his ploy is to make us think that merely because Cardinal Ratzinger, at one time, had some negative or controversial opinions about the council, this is enough for us to throw the baby out with the bath water and condemn the whole council.
Marcin: During the closing ceremonies at the end of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI joyously informed the world that the Second Vatican Council had been “assembled in the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary … and of Saint Joseph … and of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul”. Seven years later the same Pope Paul VI, on the otherwise joyous occasion of the ninth anniversary of his election as Pope, issued the following lament: We believed that after the [Second Vatican] Council would come a day of sunshine in the history of the Church. But instead there has come a day of clouds and storms, and of darkness ... And how did this come about? We will confide to you the thought that may be, we ourselves admit in free discussion, that may be unfounded, and that is that there has been a power, an adversary power. Let us call him by his name: the devil.…It is as if from some mysterious crack, no, it is not mysterious, from some crack the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.
R. Sungenis: Notice here how the author, after stringing a few quotes together, seeks to give us the impression that there is a cause and effect relationship between the appearance of the “the smoke of Satan” in the Church and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. But that is all it is, an impression. It simply has no factual basis to it. Moreover, Marcin will simply not allow for the possibility that Vatican II may have been an effort to stem the tide of evil in the world which, because of the inordinate pressures from a society already teeming with debauchery, the council was not able to accomplish its desired goal in the years that followed.
There is a certain irony here, since later Marcin refers to Pius X’s reign as the glory days of the Catholic Church. Here he sees the pope fighting valiantly against the forces of modernism and liberalism. But by force of logic, the appeal to Pius X’s condemnations merely tells us that the evil forces were already strong at work in the Church, and thus they did not suddenly come upon us between the years of 1965 and 1972 when Paul VI uttered his “smoke of Satan” phrase.
More importantly, Marcin does not provide us with any statements in which Paul VI says that the “smoke of Satan” he saw was a direct result of the teachings of Vatican II or in any way to be blamed on Vatican II. It is merely the impression Marcin wants to leave his reader, but all without the slightest proof. Logic would dictate that, if Paul VI had already assured us (as did all popes who confirmed ecumenical councils), that the council was “assembled in the Holy Spirit and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary…and of Saint Joseph…and of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul,” he is not going to suddenly pull the rug out from under us and say that, instead of all these holy beings protecting Vatican II, it was actually the “smoke of the devil” who graced its halls. No, logic would dictate that, as He has always done, the Holy Spirit protected the council from error, but that the apostate generation of people both before and after the council simply were not going to listen to the council or seek to make it consistent with the tradition, but use it for their own selfish desires and personal agendas. Councils don’t sin, people do. Ecumenical councils confirmed by the pope have always been protected from error in faith and morals, and that is why we say the Church is “indefectible.” But people, even Catholics, sorry to say, have never been protected from sin or error.
Marcin: The clouds and storms and darkness are not difficult to bring to mind. Over the past four decades since the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Church has experienced a sharp falloff in attendance at Mass, a sharp falloff in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, a cessation of belief in the Real Presence among a clear majority of the laity (surveys suggest that 70% of Catholics no longer accept the doctrine), a failure of Catholic schools and teachers to catechize and educate the past two generations of Catholic children in the timeless truths of the Catholic faith, a widespread non-use of the Sacrament of Penance, the effects of a relaxed and easier annulment process on understandings of the sanctity and permanence of marriage – not to mention the shocking priestly and even episcopal homosexual and ephebophile sex scandals (known all along but not widely publicized until 2002) and the more recently emerging embezzlement scandals. All these developments since the Second Vatican Council illustrate what Pope Paul VI must have had in mind when he lamented that “the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.” What went wrong? What was the “crack” through which the smoke of Satan entered the Church and that caused the hopes and aspirations of the participants in the Second Vatican Council to go unrealized and the Church herself to seemingly go awry – so awry that Pope Paul VI was moved to surmise that the devil is afoot spreading clouds and storms and darkness within the Church? One clue as to the identity of the “crack” comes surprisingly from the early, post-Vatican-II writings of our present Pope, Benedict XVI. Back in 1982, Pope Benedict XVI, then writing as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, made some astonishing statements in a treatise on Catholic theology. The statements that he made lie at the heart of a controversy that is currently percolating within the Church, especially in so-called traditionalist and so-called conservative Catholic circles. First of all, what about that notion that there cannot possibly be a “moral flaw” in the Second Vatican Council, or in any Ecumenical Council, because of the oversight of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps surprisingly to some, Pope Benedict XVI, then writing as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, acknowledged that “[n]ot every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis many of them have been just a waste of time” and in the very next sentence he wrote that “the last word about the historical value of Vatican Council II has yet to be spoken.” Many “valid” Church Councils have been “just a waste of time”? Why, if God the Holy Spirit watches over the doings of every valid Church Council, would “many” of them turn out to be “just a waste of time”? Could it possibly be that, in connection with those “many” waste-of-time Councils, the participants failed, for some reason, to cooperate with God the Holy Spirit’s oversight? And is the jury still out, as the Holy Father (then writing as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) seems to have suggested, on whether the Second Vatican Council itself might be one of those waste-of-time Councils?
R. Sungenis: Here Marcin assumes that, merely because Cardinal Ratzinger judged some councils as a “waste of time,” his specific intent was to cast aspersions on Vatican Council II. By the same token, would we cast aspersions on God when he said to Israel: “All day long I have held my hands out to a rebellious and gainsaying people” (Is 65:2; Rm 10:21)? In Marcin’s view, God’s words to Israel, in a certain sense, would also be a “waste of time” because Israel simply wasn’t listening to Him. But Marcin would have us believe from the quote he excised from Ratzinger’s words that the Catholic faith is just littered with councils that, like Deism, had a God that decided to take a trip to a distant planet and couldn’t be bothered making sure that the Church remained indefectible in every jot and tittle of its faith and morals.
Marcin does not cite one example of where an ecumenical council “failed, for some reason, to cooperate with God the Holy Spirit’s oversight.” He doesn’t show one instance where the magisterium judged previous ecumenical councils as a mere “waste of time.” Rather, Marcin merely seizes upon the cardinal’s unqualified words and pastes them together with other quotes in an effort draw the impression he wishes his reader to see.
Unfortunately, Marcin is cutting off his nose to spite his face. In order to impugn the integrity of Vatican II, Marcin finds himself on a fishing expedition for evidence to impugn the integrity of “many” previous councils, and in the end we are left reeling and stumbling through Catholic history as if it were a mine-field of concilar booby traps. Is this the kind of Church that Christ gave us when he said: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” and “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven”? In Marcin’s view, ecumenical councils, in themselves, both past and present, can actually spawn the “smoke of Satan,” regardless of what Jesus promised us about the magisterium’s divinely guided integrity in faith and morals.
Marcin: The Holy Father came closer to identifying the crack when he went on to suggest that the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and especially its centerpiece, Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), were intended to “correct” what he called the one-sidedness of the anti-modernist position adopted by the Church under Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X, the Popes whose Syllabi of Errors and Encyclicals warned against the dangers of that heresy of Modernism. This was a remarkably candid admission. These are the Holy Father’s words: If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text [of Gaudium et Spes] as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus.
R. Sungenis: Contrary to Marcin’s attempt to make an indistinguishable link between Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Ratzinger, the above quote is not “the Holy Father’s words.” They are the words of a single cardinal many years ago, not to mention a single cardinal who, in his former days, was known to have several different views on the same subject. As even Protestant Michael Horton recognized about Cardinal Ratzinger: “An untiring foe of theologians who threaten traditional Catholic teaching, Ratzinger defends Vatican II while nevertheless challenging the left-wing excesses that followed in its wake” Article Here. As the cardinal himself said in the Ratzinger Report:
“Over against both tendencies, before all else, it must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points.” …. “It is impossible (‘for a Catholic’) to take a position for Vatican II but against Trent or Vatican I.”
So, contrary to Marcin’s thesis, Cardinal Ratzinger did not share the view that, at Vatican II, the Holy Spirit decided to take a vacation from His duties to keep the Church’s magisterium doctrinally indefectible. Obviously, then, the curious phrase “kind of counter-syllabus” has been either misunderstood, taken out of context by people of Marcin’s persuasion, or a phrase perhaps, because of its own ambiguity denoted by the words “kind of,” might not have the implications that Marcin insists it possesses, especially in light of the cardinal’s above remarks concerning the equal authority of Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II. If we look, for example, at Dignitatis Humanae compared to both the writings of Pius IX and Pius X, it is almost invariably the case that traditionalists who are looking for loopholes and discrepancies will take either one or all of them out of context in an effort to find contradictions. This is not surprising. Even the great Michael Davies, early in his career, was guilty of this, yet he fortunately modified much of what he wrote on these issues in the years before his recent death. We certainly do not have time to go into any depth here, but suffice it to say, when the Council of Trent produced its teachings, the same accusations of “humanism” and “liberalism” that we hear today concerning Vatican II were said by such sixteenth century Catholic groups as the Jansenists. Likewise, various Catholics of the past claimed that the Council of Trent contradicted the Council of Constance, and that Vatican I contradicted the Council of Trent. None of this is news.
Marcin: In a footnote to that quoted passage, the Holy Father explained that “[t]he position taken in the Syllabus [of Pope Blessed Pius IX] was adopted and continued in [Pope Saint] Pius X’s struggle against ‘Modernism’.” Returning to his main text, he went on to write that:...the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under [Pope Blessed] Pius IX and [Pope Saint] Pius X in response to the situation created by the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution was, to a large extent, corrected via facti, especially in Central Europe, but there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the world that had come into existence after 1789 [the year of the French Revolution].Parenthetically – and with tongue slightly in cheek – one might assume that when Pope Benedict XVI wrote that at the time of the Second Vatican Council “there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the [post-1789] world,” he meant that there was no such basic statement except the basic statements of Pope Gregory XVI (Mirari Vos – On Liberalism, 1832); Pope Blessed Pius IX (Quanta Cura – On Current Errors, 1864, and Syllabus of Errors, 1864); Pope Leo XIII (Diuturnum Illud – On Government Authority, 1881, Humanum Genus – On Freemasonry and Naturalism, 1884, Libertas Praestantissimum – On the Nature of True Liberty, 1888, Rerum Novarum – On the Condition of the Working Classes. 1891, and Graves de Communi Re – On Christian Democracy, 1901); Pope Saint Pius X (Lamentabili Sane – Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists, 1907, Pascendi Dominici Gregis – On Modernism, 1907, On the “Sillon”, 1910, and Sacrorum Antistitum – The Oath against Modernism, 1910); Pope Pius XI (Quas Primas – On the Feast of Christ the King, 1925, Mortalium Animos – On Fostering True Religious Unity, 1928, and Divini Redemptoris – On Atheistic Communism, 1937); and Pope Pius XII (Humani Generis – On Certain False Opinions Which Threaten to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine, 1950). In other words, there was, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the post-1789 world, except the several basic statements over several post-1789 generations and several post-1789 papacies which, with remarkable internal consistency over those generations and those papacies, bespoke a “relationship” of opposition between the Church and the post-1789 “modernist” world – statements with which the overwhelming majority of the participants in the Second Vatican Council apparently wanted to disagree.
R. Sungenis: The flaw in Marcin’s argument should be obvious. Amassing these sixteen papal documents regarding how the Church is supposed to relate to the world actually works against Marcin’s argument rather than in favor of it. Marcin’s hope is to show that Cardinal Ratzinger is wrong when he reasons that Vatican II filled a gap in the Church’s teaching. But that hope is dashed by the mere fact that Marcin himself brings forth sixteen papal documents in an attempt prove his point! Obviously, if it required sixteen documents to communicate the Church’s position, then the position was not completely established in any one document. Life is often very complicated, and thus it should come as no surprise to astute Catholics that it would take more than a dozen papal documents to help flesh out the Church’s position. In each case, something was added to the previous document, and yes, if we study them carefully, sometimes there was even a modification in the Church’s position depending on what circumstance she faced at the time. This was especially true, for example, in the Catholic Church’s position on slavery.
Since all this is indisputably true, then it surely is no great stretch of the imagination to understand that Vatican II, which came almost a hundred years after Vatican I, would have something to say in addition to the above sixteen papal documents about how the Church was to relate to the world. In fact, in the intervening years between Vatican I and Vatican II, the world went through the most tumultuous changes it had ever experienced in history. One could say that life in the 20th century was more complicated and volatile than all other centuries combined since the time of Christ. Every field of knowledge was just bursting with sophistication, and the dangers to go along with it. The A-bomb, the television, the light bulb, the airplane, the pill, the automobile, rockets, computers, drugs, communism, facism, world wars, population explosion, world-wide evangelism, world finance, etc. There simply has never been a time like this in history, and the Church and the world have had a much more complicated relationship than they ever did before. Do you think that Vatican II, in the midst of all this social upheaval, might have had something to add about Church/World relations? If the Church can produce sixteen social documents over the years 1832-1950, why is it such a shock to Marcin that Vatican II, the 21st ecumenical council in history, wouldn’t have some additional things of value to say about a time more tumultuous than any other in history? As we can see, Marcin’s argument falls by its own weight.
Marcin: The Holy Father seemed candidly to admit exactly that when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote: “[T]he text [of the Vatican II documents, especially Gaudium et Spes] serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.” At first glance, these statements of Pope Benedict XVI may not seem to be “astonishing.” He was, after all, only stating the obvious, wasn’t he? He was only being candid. His statement was actually quite unremarkable. It is well known and widely popularly believed that reconciling the Church with the modern world was the whole point of the Second Vatican Council – wasn’t it? What perhaps gnaws uncomfortably at the intellect in those statements is the fact that the Holy Father was suggesting that the main goal of the Second Vatican Council was to set up a counter-syllabus, an opposition document, to the consistent and uniform teachings of six of his predecessor Popes.
R. Sungenis: Here we see Marcin defining “kind of counter-syllabus” as “an opposition document.” This helps him establish the “us against them” arena so that he can draw the battle lines that pits Vatican II against all previous Church teaching. But the cardinal did not refer to Vatican II as an “opposition document” but as the Church’s attempt “at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.” In other words, the world had changed significantly in 1789 and a whole new set of questions and problems arose, and as time went on, those issues would become ever more complex, especially as we entered the 20th century.
Marcin: To place the Holy Father’s statements in the sharpest possible context, one must go back to those events that occurred more than a half century before the Second Vatican Council, in the midst of the era in which the Church was consistently articulating its statements of opposition towards the tenets of liberalism and modernism that came to characterize the post-1789 age. On July 3, in the year 1907, Pope Saint Pius X issued a decree called Lamentabili Sane, listing and condemning the errors of a heresy which he referred to as “Modernism”. Two months later in that same year, on September 8, Pope Saint Pius X issued the Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, a more lengthy explanatory discussion and condemnation of the heresy of Modernism, referring to it as the synthesis of all heresies. Three years later, on September 1, 1910, Pope Saint Pius X issued a motu proprio entitled Sacrorum Antistitum in which he mandated that an Oath against Modernism (welcomed at the time by genuine Catholics and dreaded by the dissenting Catholics of the day) be taken by all Catholic clergy before being ordained to the subdiaconate on their way to the priesthood. The text of the Oath, mentioning and condemning the tenets and tendencies of the heresy, was prescribed in the motu proprio. It is of great importance to note that Pope Saint Pius X’s Oath Against Modernism mandate was not rescinded until 1967, more than a year after the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Thus it seems that every Catholic priest ordained between the years 1910 and 1967 was obliged to take Pope Saint Pius X’s Oath against Modernism. Recall our current Holy Father’s words: “The position taken in the Syllabus [of Pope Blessed Pius IX] was adopted and continued in [Pope Saint] Pius X’s struggle against ‘Modernism’”, and “the text [of Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), Dignitatis Humanae (the Declaration on Religious Freedom), and Nostra Aetate (the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions)] as a whole . . is a revision of the Syllabus of [Pope Blessed] Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus.” The implications are startling. Every single bishop, archbishop, and cardinal who participated in the Second Vatican Council and every single Vatican II peritus (expert advisor) who was also a priest, without exception, had taken the Oath against Modernism mandated for all Catholic clergy by Saint Pius X in 1910 and not rescinded by the Vatican until 1967. Every single participant in the Second Vatican Council was under an oath-bound obligation to God Almighty, “with due reverence [to] submit and adhere with [his] whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili [the encyclical and decree that condemned Modernism as a heresy]”. Seen in this light, Pope Benedict XVI’s statements are truly astonishing. How could the participants in the Second Vatican Council set out intentionally to “correct” or to set up a “countersyllabus” to, that to which they all, without exception, had sworn, “with [their] whole heart,” to “submit and adhere”? How can one who is oath-bound to support the papal condemnations of the heresy of Modernism act to correct or “counter” those very condemnations? What are we to believe? Are we to believe that those who voted in favor of the “countersyllabus” documents of the Second Vatican Council which were intended to “correct” the pronouncements of Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X (and presumably the pronouncements of Popes Gregory XVI, Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Pius XII as well) violated the Oath against Modernism that they had taken? That they forgot their oath? In either case – and this is the great moral flaw in the Second Vatican Council – it is not possible to accept that the participants in the Second Vatican Council were cooperating with God the Holy Spirit when they adopted measures inconsistent with the Oath Against Modernism – an oath that they all had taken. This fact, if accepted, casts more than serious doubt both on the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” and indeed on the very legitimacy of all of the Second Vatican Council’s “countersyllabus” documents – documents that, according to Pope Benedict XVI, were intended to “correct” or “counter” teachings which all the participants in the Second Vatican Council were oath-bound to uphold.
R. Sungenis: Besides Marcin’s one-side meaning of the phrase “kind of countersyllabus,” we see clearly where his radical thesis will take him – to an outright rejection of Vatican Council II; to an outright rejection that the Holy Spirit was there protecting the council from error, and, unfortunately, to a rejection of the very tradition that Marcin is trying to save, since Vatican Council II and its reigning Pope, along with Cardinal Ratzinger who, as we saw earlier, said that “it must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points,” made it very clear that Vatican II stands in the line of the Church’s tradition, not against it.
For Marcin the logic is simple. Since he believes that “the text of Gaudium et Spes… Dignitatis Humanae…and Nostra Aetate” are in error in what they teach, then, ipso facto, the 2300 or so bishops who signed off on those documents (including Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre) abandoned the “Oath Against Modernism,” and thus ignored the Holy Spirit and sinned grievously against the Church. One thing we can say for Marcin: he follows his reasoning to its logical conclusion. Unfortunately, the next step for Marcin and all who accept his thesis is sedevacantism. For if Vatican II was not of the Holy Spirit and, because of its content, allowed the “smoke of Satan to enter the Church,” we have no guarantee that ANY ecumenical council called after Vatican II would not fall into the same kinds of errors. We have no guarantee that the Pope who confirms the next ecumenical council could not also make a mistake in confirming a bogus gathering of bishops. In short, we are left with the judgment of Raymond Marcin to determine what is true and what is false. Whether Marcin admits it or not, THAT is the logical conclusion of his thesis.
Marcin: Lest we are tempted to suggest that Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X’s condemnations of Modernism were only addressed to an obscure turn-of-the-twentieth-century set of beliefs of a few ultra-liberal theologians of the day, we are reminded of Pope Saint Pius X’s identification of the Modernism that he was condemning as “the synthesis of all heresies” and of a more contemporary admonition delivered by Pope Paul VI’s that Modernism “is the most dangerous revolution the Church has ever had to face, and it is still scourging her severely.” Pope Paul VI went on to identify the Modernism that is “still” scourging the Church severely with the Modernism attacked by Pope Blessed Pius IX and Pope Saint Pius X when he characterized it as a “revolution” within the Church: This revolution is a process of self-demolition and it aims at driving the Church to the end of the road to perdition.
R. Sungenis: I find it intriguing that Marcin has not recognized his own glaring contradiction in the above paragraph. On the one hand, he praises Paul VI as being on par with Pius X’s condemnation of Modernism. Yet wasn’t it Paul VI who confirmed all sixteen documents of Vatican Council II with the most stern and foreboding language against anyone who would go against their teaching? Is Marcin trying to tell us that Paul VI endorsed officially the very Modernism that he condemned privately? This is certainly ironic, since, if the Pope is protected from error and must uphold the indefectibility of the Church, we would expect the exact opposite, that is, that he can hold erroneous views privately but would be compelled by the Holy Spirit to condemn them when he speaks in an official manner and binds the whole Church. Or, is Marcin’s schizophrenic view of Paul VI originating from his previous suggestion that, at Vatican II, the Holy Spirit decided to relax His promise to protect the Church in her official proclamations on faith and morals? Or is Marcin suggesting that the Holy Spirit was present at Vatican II and tried to protect the Church from doctrinal error but that He wasn’t powerful enough at that time to overcome the wills of the 2300 bishops, yet He was powerful enough to do so with the twenty previous ecumenical councils? Whichever way Marcin decides to turn on this question, he creates a contradiction. These are the booby traps that are placed all over the Catholic faith. Anyone who transgresses its inherent safeguards will fall victim to those booby traps, as Marcin has done.
Marcin: The trinity of parents responsible for the perversion known as modernism are: 1) Its religious ancestor is the Protestant Reformation; 2) Its philosophical parent is the Enlightenment; 3) Its political pedigree comes from the French Revolution. Further, if we are to judge by the fruits of the Second Vatican Council, what are we to believe? We have Pope Paul VI’s own evaluation of the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council: We looked forward to a flowering, a serene expansion of concepts which matured in the great sessions of the Council….[Instead, i]t is as if the Church were destroying herself. We have the impression that through some cracks in the wall the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God: . . . doubt, uncertainty, questioning, dissatisfaction, confrontation….We thought that after the Council a day of sunshine would have dawned for the history of the Church. What dawned, instead, was a day of clouds and storms, of darkness, of searching and uncertainties. The clouds, the storms, the darkness, the searching, the uncertainties – who can say that they are not still with us today, more than four decades after the close of the Second Vatican Council? If the Church herself is to judge the Second Vatican Council by its fruits, should she not heed Our Lord’s injunction given at the close of His Sermon on the Mount? – “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.” It seems to be merely an exercise in common sense to conclude that the fruits of decisions to “counter” or “correct” those teachings that the decision-makers were oath-bound to uphold would turn out to be clouds, storms, darkness, searching, and uncertainties. It is not a wonder that, in the wake of an oath-abandoning Council, it should appear as if the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God. If it is true – as Pope Paul VI said it was true – that the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God, and if it is true, as seems likely when one resorts to common sense, that the smoke of Satan crept into the Second Vatican Council with the breaking or discarding or abandoning or forgetting of the Oath against Modernism, then it is high time that the smoke of Satan be swept away, and that higher minds with no other agenda except adherence to the timeless truths of the Catholic faith excise the demon and restore that faith. It was again Pope Paul VI, the pope who presided over the adoption of the oath-tainted documents of the Second Vatican Council, who expressed the final verdict on the Second Vatican Council shortly before his death. These are Pope Paul VI’s words: “The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church. Was Pope Paul VI just “whistling Dixie”? Or was he, in his final days, trying to tell us something important? It is becoming impossible to deny that the tree that bore the fruits of that violated or discarded Oath against Modernism – the darkness of Satan, apostasy, loss of faith at the “highest” levels within the Church, the doubt, the uncertainty, the questioning, the dissatisfaction, the confrontations, the clouds, the storms – is the Second Vatican Council itself. It is simply not possible to affirm that God the Holy Spirit somehow countenanced the violation or the discarding of an oath taken to God Himself. One can’t help recalling our present Holy Father’s words: “Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis many of them have been just a waste of time” and “the last word about the historical value of Vatican Council II has yet to be spoken.” Jesus has told us what must be done, in no uncertain terms, about unfruitful trees, and presumably about unfruitful councils: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.” The simple, yet astonishingly difficult-to-accept, implication is that “the clouds, the storms, the darkness” that Pope Paul VI saw besetting the Church, and that still beset the Church today (exemplified and multiplied by the once-unthinkable sex and embezzlement scandals), must continue until the Church repudiates all the changes and innovations wrought by the Council participants’ abandonment of their oath-bound obligations oppose Modernism.
R. Sungenis: The whole above paragraph is based on a false premise. The false premise is that Paul VI attributed the “smoke of Satan” and the problems in the Catholic Church to the Second Vatican Council. At no time did Paul VI say such a thing. Marcin is merely reading into Paul VI’s words what he wants to see. In Marcin’s view, if there were bad things that happened after Vatican II, then Vatican II must be at fault. But Marcin’s appeal to Jesus’ statement about “knowing them by their fruits” is misplaced, since Jesus is not talking about ecumenical councils but about individuals who claim one thing and do another (Mt 7:13-23). When the Church is in view, Jesus makes it clear that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Likewise, St. Paul tells us “the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tm 3:15).
Moreover, if Marcin’s thesis about Vatican II were correct, then he should apply the same cause-and-effect relationship to the Creation and the sin of Adam and Eve, that is, since they sinned after God created the world, then the creation must necessarily be evil because it produced evil fruit. Obviously, this reasoning is fallacious, simply because we know that the creation, as God said himself, was “very good.” Evil came after the creation due to nothing more than the free will decisions of the human beings God created. By the same token, the evil that came after Vatican II is not due to errors in Vatican II but to the free will decisions of the radicals and heretics that came before and after Vatican II that twisted and distorted the council’s teaching towards their own erroneous beliefs.
As it stands, Marcin’s thesis is totally flawed. It is a recipe for even more disaster than what Marcin envisions from his own prognostications. Marcin and his followers need to stop blaming Vatican Council II for the Church’s problems. Councils don’t sin, people do. Council documents are inanimate objects. It is the interpreters of those documents that can either do good or evil with what they read, just as Adam and Eve were able to do when they received God’s commandment. But traditionalists and modernists alike do the same thing to Vatican II’s words as that Eve did to God’s words. They are twisted and distorted. The traditionalist says that Vatican II’s words contradict all previous council’s words. The modernist says that Vatican II’s words are the pinnacle of Catholic truth and all other councils are either irrelevant or superseded. Both extremes are erroneous. There is only one truth, and that truth requires that Vatican Council II is a legitimate ecumenical council of the Catholic Church that was protected from errors in faith and morals by the Holy Spirit, and thereby the Church remains indefectible. This means that all its teachings are to be interpreted in the light of the Church’s dogmatic tradition, and the final decision on how to interpret it is not to be left to lay theologians and individual clerics who spout diverse opinions about its contents, but by the magisterium of the Catholic Church, if and when she so chooses to interpret and apply its teachings.
Robert A. Sungenis, Ph.D.
Catholic Apologetics International
October 27, 2006