Dr Maike Hickson, July 15, 2020, LifeSiteNews:
Today, more than 50 priests, scholars, journalists, and other persons of prominence published an Open Letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, thanking these two prelates for their recent statements in which they discuss some problems of the Second Vatican Council’s documents that might need a further evaluation and correction.
The signatories of this letter regard this discourse about the Council and its aftermath to be of crucial importance for the good of the Church.
Among them are prominently the Italian church historian Professor Roberto de Mattei, the U.S. Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst and professor of law, Andrew P. Napolitano, as well as his fellow law professors Brian McCall and Paolo Pasqualucci, well-known Catholic book authors such as Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Jose Antonio Ureta, Henry Sire, and Dr. Taylor Marshall, the retired Oxford Research Fellow Father John Hunwicke, numerous other priests, as well as journalists such as Marco Tosatti, Aldo Maria Valli, Jeanne Smits, and John-Henry Westen.
The letter (see full text below) is being published simultaneously in English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and French.
The undersigned express their gratitude to Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider for calling for an “open and honest debate about the truth of what happened at Vatican II and whether the Council and its implementation contain errors or aspects that favor errors or harm the Faith.” They notice that these two prelates also have their own disagreements about aspects of this discourse, saying that “Archbishop Viganò has argued it would be better to altogether ‘forget’ the Council, while Bishop Schneider, disagreeing with him on this specific point, proposes officially to correct only those parts of the Council documents that contain errors or that are ambiguous.” But these disagreements are presented in a charitable and kindly manner.
The signatories state:
Your courteous and respectful exchange of opinions should serve as a model for the more robust debate that you and we desire. Too often these past fifty years disagreements about Vatican II have been challenged by mere ad hominem attacks rather than calm argumentation. We urge all who will join this debate to follow your example.
The Open Letter thanks these two prelates for “identifying” some of the crucial aspects of the Second Vatican Council that deserve an examination, adding that such a discourse could provide “a model for frank, yet courteous, debate that can involve disagreement.” The signatories point out that they themselves might not agree with each and every point raised by Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider.
The Open Letter then lists the key points of criticism as raised by these two prelates in the recent weeks with regard to the Council under the following headlines: Religious Liberty for All Religions as a Natural Right Willed by God; the Identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and the New Ecumenism; Papal Primacy and the New Collegiality; and The Council and Its Texts are the Cause of Many Current Scandals and Errors.
In these sections, quotations from the two prelates are presented, thus summing up their arguments and objections. For example, in the last section, both prelates are drawing parallels between some statements of the Council and documents issued by Pope Francis, thus pointing to the Council and its novel teachings as the root cause of our current crisis in the Church.
Archbishop Vigano recently wrote:
If the pachamama could be adored in a church, we owe it to Dignitatis Humanae. If we have a liturgy that is Protestantized and at times even paganized, we owe it to the revolutionary action of Msgr. Annibale Bugnini and to the post-conciliar reforms. If the Abu Dhabi Declaration was signed, we owe it to Nostra Aetate. If we have come to the point of delegating decisions to the Bishops’ Conferences – even in grave violation of the Concordat, as happened in Italy – we owe it to collegiality, and to its updated version, synodality. Thanks to synodality, we found ourselves with Amoris Laetitia having to look for a way to prevent what was obvious to everyone from appearing: that this document, prepared by an impressive organizational machine, intended to legitimize Communion for the divorced and cohabiting, just as Querida Amazonia will be used to legitimize women priests (as in the recent case of an ‘episcopal vicaress’ in Freiburg) and the abolition of Sacred Celibacy.
And in a similar vein, Bishop Schneider stated:
For anyone who is intellectually honest, and is not seeking to square the circle, it is clear that the assertion made in Dignitatis Humanae, according to which every man has the right based on his own nature (and therefore positively willed by God) to practice and spread a religion according to his own conscience, does not differ substantially from the statement in the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which says: ‘The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.’
Let us recapitulate here the short history of this new discourse on the Council and its aftermath.
It started with two texts published by Bishop Schneider, in which he responded to a lengthy interpretative essay by Cardinal Gerhard Müller trying to read the controversial February 4, 2019 Abu Dhabi document in an orthodox light, and thereby also positively referring back to some Council documents.
Schneider stated on June 1 that the Abu Dhabi document is wrong in declaring that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.” In his second article, the Kazakh prelate of German origin also disagreed with the claim that Catholics and Muslims believe in the same God, a claim which is an underlying assumption of the Abu Dhabi document.
Archbishop Viganò gratefully and approvingly responded to this debate about Vatican II in a June 9 intervention, adding a June 15 statement about some of the problematic propositions that can be found in Vatican II documents. In this document, he also stated that it would be better if this Council were to be “forgotten.” He then answered interview questions from the Catholic commentator and book author Phil Lawler concerning the history and background of the turbulent Second Vatican Council and the signs that it had been manipulated by a small group of modernists, on June 26.
In a response to LifeSite’s editor-in-chief, John-Henry Westen, Archbishop Viganò clarified his earlier words that he thinks this Council should better be forgotten, by saying that he considers this Council to be valid, but manipulated.
Finally, on July 6, this Italian prelate responded to a critique by the Italian journalist Sandro Magister who claimed that he was on the “brink of schism.” “I have no desire to separate myself from Mother Church,” Viganò then wrote.
The signatories of this Open Letter to Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider welcome this reflection and discourse concerning the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath. One may trust that when people of good will together consider these matters of great importance for the life of the Church – even if they disagree at times – the truth surely will be promoted, in charity.
Please see here the Open Letter, signed by over 50 priests, scholars, journalists, and other persons of prominence:
Open Letter to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and Bishop Athanasius Schneider
July 9, 2020
We the undersigned wish to express our sincere gratitude for your fortitude and care for souls during the ongoing crisis of Faith in the Catholic Church. Your public statements calling for an honest and open discussion of the Second Vatican Council and the dramatic changes in Catholic belief and practice that followed it have been a source of hope and consolation to many faithful Catholics. The event of the Second Vatican Council appears now more than fifty years after its completion to be unique in the history of the Church. Never before our time has an ecumenical council been followed by such a prolonged period of confusion, corruption, loss of faith, and humiliation for the Church of Christ.
Catholicism has distinguished itself from some false religions by its insistence that Man is a rational creature and that religious belief encourages rather than suppresses critical reflection by Catholics. Many, including the current Holy Father, appear to place the Second Vatican Council—and its texts, acts, and implementation—beyond the reach of critical analysis and debate. To concerns and objections raised by Catholics of good will, the Council has been held up by some as a “super-council,” (1) the invocation of which ends rather than fosters debate. Your call to trace the current crisis in the Church to its roots and to call for action to correct any turn taken at Vatican II that is now seen to have been a mistake exemplify the fulfillment of the episcopal office to hand on the Faith as the Church has received it.
We are grateful for your calls for an open and honest debate about the truth of what happened at Vatican II and whether the Council and its implementation contain errors or aspects that favor errors or harm the Faith. Such a debate cannot start from a conclusion that the Second Vatican Council as a whole and in its parts is per se in continuity with Tradition. Such a pre-condition to a debate prevents critical analysis and argument and only permits the presentation of evidence that supports the conclusion already announced. Whether or not Vatican II can be reconciled with Tradition is the question to be debated, not a posited premise blindly to be followed even if it turns out to be contrary to reason. The continuity of Vatican II with Tradition is a hypothesis to be tested and debated, not an incontrovertible fact. For too many decades the Church has seen too few shepherds permit, let alone encourage, such a debate.
Eleven years ago, Msgr. Brunero Gherardini had already made a filial request to Pope Benedict XVI: “The idea (which I dare now to submit to Your Holiness) has been in my mind for a long time. It is that a grandiose and if possible final clarification of the last council be given concerning each of its aspects and contents. Indeed, it would seem logical, and it seems urgent to me, that these aspects and contents be studied in themselves and in the context of all the others, with a close examination of all the sources, and from the specific viewpoint of continuity with the preceding Church’s Magisterium, both solemn and ordinary. On the basis of a scientific and critical work—as vast and irreproachable as possible—in comparison with the traditional Magisterium of the Church, it will then be possible to draw matter for a sure and objective evaluation of Vatican II.” (2)
We also are grateful for your initiative in identifying some of the most important doctrinal topics that must be addressed in such a critical examination and for providing a model for frank, yet courteous, debate that can involve disagreement. We have collected from your recent interventions some examples of the topics you have indicated must be addressed and, if found lacking, corrected. This collection we hope will serve as a basis for further detailed discussion and debate. We do not claim this list to be exclusive, perfect, or complete. We also do not all necessarily agree with the precise nature of each of the critiques quoted below nor on the answer to the questions you raise, yet we are united in the belief that your questions deserve honest answers and not mere dismissals with ad hominem claims of disobedience or breaking with communion. If what each of you claims is untrue, let interlocutors prove it; if not, the hierarchy should give credence to your claims.
Religious Liberty for All Religions as a Natural Right Willed by God
- Bishop Schneider: “Examples include certain expressions of the Council on the topic of religious freedom (understood as a natural right, and therefore positively willed by God, to practice and spread a false religion, which may also include idolatry or even worse)….” (3)
- Bishop Schneider: “Unfortunately, just a few sentences later, the Council [in Dignitatis Humanae] undermines this truth by setting forth a theory never before taught by the constant Magisterium of the Church, i.e., that man has the right founded in his own nature, ‘not to be prevented from acting in religious matters according to his own conscience, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits’ (ut in re religiosa neque impediatur, quominus iuxta suam conscientiam agat privatim et publice, vel solus vel aliis consociatus, intra debitos limites, n. 2). According to this statement, man would have the right, based on nature itself (and therefore positively willed by God) not to be prevented from choosing, practicing and spreading, also collectively, the worship of an idol, and even the worship of Satan, since there are religions that worship Satan, for instance, the ‘church of Satan.’ Indeed, in some countries, the ‘church of Satan’ is recognized with the same legal value as all other religions.” (4)
The Identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church and the New Ecumenism
- Bishop Schneider: “[I]ts [the Council’s] distinction between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church (the problem of “subsistit in” gives the impression that two realities exist: the one side, the Church of Christ, and on the other, the Catholic Church); and its stance towards non-Christian religions and the contemporary world.” (5)
- Bishop Schneider: “To state that Muslims adore together with us the one God (“nobiscum Deum adorant”), as the II Vatican Council did in Lumen Gentium n. 16, is theologically a highly ambiguous affirmation. That we Catholics adore with the Muslims the one God is not true. We do not adore with them. In the act of adoration, we always adore the Holy Trinity, we do not simply adore “the one God” but, rather, the Holy Trinity consciously—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Islam rejects the Holy Trinity. When the Muslims adore, they do not adore on the supernatural level of faith. Even our act of adoration is radically different. It is essentially different. Precisely because we turn to God and adore Him as children who are constituted within the ineffable dignity of divine filial adoption, and we do this with supernatural faith. However, the Muslims do not have supernatural faith.” (6)
- Archbishop Viganò: “We know well that, invoking the saying in Scripture Littera enim occidit, spiritus autem vivificat [The letter brings death, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6)], the progressives and modernists astutely knew how to hide equivocal expressions in the conciliar texts, which at the time appeared harmless to most but that today are revealed in their subversive value. It is the method employed in the use of the phrase subsistit in: saying a half-truth not so much as not to offend the interlocutor (assuming that it is licit to silence the truth of God out of respect for His creature), but with the intention of being able to use the half-error that would be instantly dispelled if the entire truth were proclaimed. Thus“Ecclesia Christi subsistit in Ecclesia Catholica” does not specify the identity of the two, but the subsistence of one in the other and, for consistency, also in other churches: here is the opening to interconfessional celebrations, ecumenical prayers, and the inevitable end of any need for the Church in the order of salvation, in her unicity, and in her missionary nature.” (7)
Papal Primacy and the New Collegiality
- Bishop Schneider: “For example, the very fact that a ‘nota explicativa praevia’ to the document Lumen Gentium was needed shows that the text of Lumen Gentium, in n. 22, is ambiguous with regard to the topic of the relationship between papal primacy and episcopal collegiality. Documents clarifying the Magisterium in post-conciliar times, such as the encyclicals Mysterium Fidei, Humanae Vitae, and Pope Paul VI’s Creed of the People of God, were of great value and help, but they did not clarify the aforementioned ambiguous statements of the Second Vatican Council.” (8)
The Council and Its Texts are the Cause of Many Current Scandals and Errors
- Archbishop Viganò: “If the pachamama could be adored in a church, we owe it to Dignitatis Humanae. If we have a liturgy that is Protestantized and at times even paganized, we owe it to the revolutionary action of Msgr. Annibale Bugnini and to the post-conciliar reforms. If the Abu Dhabi Declaration was signed, we owe it to Nostra Aetate. If we have come to the point of delegating decisions to the Bishops’ Conferences – even in grave violation of the Concordat, as happened in Italy – we owe it to collegiality, and to its updated version, synodality. Thanks to synodality, we found ourselves with Amoris Laetitia having to look for a way to prevent what was obvious to everyone from appearing: that this document, prepared by an impressive organizational machine, intended to legitimize Communion for the divorced and cohabiting, just as Querida Amazonia will be used to legitimize women priests (as in the recent case of an ‘episcopal vicaress’ in Freiburg) and the abolition of Sacred Celibacy.” (9)
- Archbishop Viganò: “But if at the time it could be difficult to think that a religious liberty condemned by Pius XI (Mortalium Animos) could be affirmed by Dignitatis Humanae, or that the Roman Pontiff could see his authority usurped by a phantom episcopal college, today we understand that what was cleverly concealed in Vatican II is today affirmed ore rotundo in papal documents precisely in the name of the coherent application of the Council.” (10)
- Archbishop Viganò: “We can thus affirm that the spirit of the Council is the Council itself, that the errors of the post-conciliar period were contained in nuce in the Conciliar Acts, just as it is rightly said that the Novus Ordo is the Mass of the Council, even if in the presence of the Council Fathers the Mass was celebrated that the progressives significantly call pre-conciliar.” (11)
- Bishop Schneider: “For anyone who is intellectually honest, and is not seeking to square the circle, it is clear that the assertion made in Dignitatis Humanae, according to which every man has the right based on his own nature (and therefore positively willed by God) to practice and spread a religion according to his own conscience, does not differ substantially from the statement in the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which says: ‘The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.’” (12)
We have taken note of the differences you have highlighted between the solutions each of you has proposed for responding to the crisis precipitated at and following the Second Vatican Council. For example, Archbishop Viganò has argued it would be better to altogether “forget” the Council, while Bishop Schneider, disagreeing with him on this specific point, proposes officially to correct only those parts of the Council documents that contain errors or that are ambiguous. Your courteous and respectful exchange of opinions should serve as a model for the more robust debate that you and we desire. Too often these past fifty years disagreements about Vatican II have been challenged by mere ad hominem attacks rather than calm argumentation. We urge all who will join this debate to follow your example.
We pray that Our Blessed Mother, St. Peter the Prince of the Apostles, St. Athanasius, and St. Thomas Aquinas protect and preserve your Excellencies. May they reward you for your faithfulness to the Church and confirm you in your defense of the Faith and of the Church.
In Christo Rege, (signed)
- Donna F. Bethell, J.D.
- Prof. Dr Brian McCall
- Paul A. Byrne, M.D.
- Edgardo J. Cruz-Ramos, President Una Voce Puerto Rico
- Dr Massimo de Leonardis, Professor (ret.) of History of International Relations
- Prof. Roberto de Mattei, President of the Lepanto Foundation
- Fr Jerome W. Fasano
- Mauro Faverzani, journalist
- Timothy S. Flanders, author and founder of a lay apostolate
- Matt Gaspers, Managing Editor, Catholic Family News
- Corrado Gnerre, leader of the Italian movement “Il Cammino dei Tre Sentieri”
- M. Virginia O. de Gristelli, Director of C. F. S.Bernardo de Claraval, Argentina
- Jorge Esteban Gristelli, editor, Argentina
- Dr Maria Guarini STB, editor of the website Chiesa e postconcilio
- Kennedy Hall, book author
- Prof. Dr em. Robert D. Hickson
- Prof. Dr.rer.nat. Dr.rer.pol. Rudolf Hilfer, Stuttgart, Germany
- Rev. John Hunwicke, Senior Research Fellow Emeritus, Pusey House, Oxford
- Prof. Dr Peter Kwasniewski
- Leila M. Lawler, writer
- Pedro L. Llera Vázquez, school headmaster and author at InfoCatólica
- James P. Lucier PhD
- Massimo Magliaro, journalist, Editor of “Nova Historica”
- Antonio Marcantonio, MA
- Dr Taylor Marshall, author of Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within
- The Reverend Deacon, Eugene G. McGuirk
- Fr Michael McMahon Prior St. Dennis Calgary
- Fr Cor Mennen
- Fr Michael Menner
- Dr Stéphane Mercier, Ph.D., S.T.B.
- Hon. Andrew P. Napolitano, Senior Judicial Analyst, Fox News; Visiting Professor of Law, Hofstra University
- Fr Dave Nix, Diocesan Hermit
- Prof. Paolo Pasqualucci
- Fr Dean Perri
- Dr Carlo Regazzoni, Philosopher of Culture, Therwill, Switzerland
- Fr Luis Eduardo Rodríguez Rodríguez
- Don Tullio Rotondo
- John F. Salza, Esq., Catholic Attorney and Apologist
- Wolfram Schrems, Wien, Mag. theol., Mag. Phil., catechist
- Henry Sire, historian and book author
- Robert Siscoe, author
- Jeanne Smits, journalist
- Dr. sc. Zlatko Šram, Croatian Center for Applied Social Research
- Fr Glen Tattersall, Parish Priest, Parish of St John Henry Newman (Melbourne, Australia)
- Marco Tosatti, journalist
- Giovanni Turco, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy of Public Law at the University of Udine (Italy)
- Jose Antonio Ureta
- Aldo Maria Valli, journalist
- Dr Thomas Ward, President of the National Association of Catholic Families
- John-Henry Westen, co-founder and editor-in-chief LifeSiteNews.com
- Willy Wimmer, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defense (ret.)
Names added July 15
- Father Jay Finelli
- Renacito Refuerzo Ramos, MD, DFM, Catholic physician
Other priests and scholars interested in signing this Open Letter may contact Openlettercouncil@gmail.com. Other people interested in supporting this Open Letter can sign a petition here.
Bishop Schneider’s statement that “For anyone who is intellectually honest, and is not seeking to square the circle, it is clear that the assertion made in Dignitatis Humanae, according to which every man has the right based on his own nature (and therefore positively willed by God) to practice and spread a religion according to his own conscience, does not differ substantially from the statement in the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which says: ‘The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.’” is quite incorrect.
Dignitatis Humanae states, in its definition of religious freedom, that : “Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”
It is not morally defensible to promote false claims about the documents of an Ecumenical Council towards those who may be insufficiently familiar with those texts.
The Abu Dhabi Declaration is substantially incorrect, for obvious and for less obvious reasons ; whereas it is quite untrue and indeed dishonest to claim that Dignitatis Humanae has the same gross flaws as that awful document.
Bishop Schneider clearly is also using an incorrect, secularist, understanding of the word “conscience“, in which this is a completely individual entity, detached from others and from God, existing purely in the individual alone ; whereas in the Christian understanding of the word, the conscience is that which is informed by God and by Christ and by guardian angels in order to provide each human person with the natural impulse and motivation to seek God and to seek conversion to the Christian Religion.
It is nice that five women were included in the distinguished list .
As to this letter, its statement that : “The continuity of Vatican II with Tradition is a hypothesis to be tested and debated, not an incontrovertible fact” is theologically inept, and indeed directly promotes an incorrect understanding of theology ; of what it is, and how it functions.
The claim that the canons of an Ecumenical Council of the Church are mere “hypotheticals” to be “tested” is as schismatic as it is formally heretical ; it flies in the face of every Tradition of Holy Church, and it denies the constant teachings of Church and Councils.
Of course, the “opposite” notion presented here, of those same canons being “incontrovertible fact” is equally false.
The signatories of this text are claiming a false dichotomy to be defining the Council, and beyond that the Church.
This is behaviour of a Protestant nature, whereby one term of a falsely conceived “definition” is claimed as true doctrine, and those who so-called “reject” it as not properly Christian.
It partakes directly of the Modernist Error, whereby the individual is called to make judgment upon the teachings and doctrines of the Church.
Whereas in reality, there has never been any impediment whatsoever to the discussion of individual sentences or paragraphs within the Council documents, when and where those specific sentences or paragraphs have not been written in such a manner as to make it clear that they are binding upon all Catholics.
The implicit (“traditionalist”) claim that every Ecumenical Council (to be “acceptable”) must be absolutely coherent in every little detail with the Deposit of Faith is furthermore a false one, and it is no more true of Trent than of Vatican II, nor of any other Ecumenical Council.
The statement in the documents of the Council of Florence that : “also an agreed proposal on the choice of a place to which the council of Basel should be translated which was agreed upon and confirmed by all the fathers in common and which led to the decree of the twenty-fifth session of the former council, which begins This holy synod from its outset etc. and which the pope himself, urged on by the envoys of the Greeks, accepted and confirmed by his letter given in a general consistory at Bologna and published in the presence of these envoys, also the letter of the same most blessed Eugenius dated 18 September last, issued in a general consistory at Bologna and solemnly read out at the beginning of the continuation of this synod, by which the pope with the counsel and consent of the most reverend cardinals of the holy Roman church and with the approval of the prelates then in the curia, transferred the council to this city of Ferrara; also the letter of the declaration of the same, dated 30 December, immediately following the said translation; all of which this holy synod has ordered to be registered verbatim in its acts as a permanent record, as is contained in these same acts.” is for example completely irrelevant to the Deposit of Faith, and the notion that the contents of this text extract might somehow need to be “hypothetically” “tested” for “continuity” with “previous Tradition” would be quite obviously preposterous.
And yet we are supposed to believe, from the claims of these letter writers, that from an ill-conceived and formally incorrect personal disagreement (from that same ill-framed theory of “conscience” ?) with some little details within one Council Document (that is not even defined in its own words as being binding upon all Catholics) that the entirety of an Ecumenical Council of Holy Church is to be called into question ?
That is not any manner or form of properly Traditional Catholicism — it is a call to Heresy and Schism.