I have written several times on the legitimacy of the Second Vatican Council. In none of those posts, however, did I express exactly what I wish to express here. One of the main arguments of Traditionalist Catholics is that Vatican II was a pastoral council. Most of the issues it dealt with were of a disciplinary, pastoral, or regional nature. The only issues which can qualify as infallible are those matters of faith and morals which are of a universal concern. Hence, Vatican II was not an infallible council, and we are not required to accept its decisions.
Before we go around discounting Vatican II’s decisions we must first examine our situation. Was Vatican II primarily a pastoral council? Yes it was. Was it primarily concerned with matters of faith or morals? No it was not. Does this mean, however, that we should discount the decisions of Vatican II? No it does not. Was Vatican II an ecumenical council? Yes it was. Did it possess the charism of infallibility? Yes it did.
Although Vatican II was a pastoral council which did not deal much with matters of faith or morals, it was an ecumenical council. Vatican II, therefore, had to possess the charism of infallibility. As they say, “Either all ecumenical councils are infallible, or none of them are.”
This is not to say any decision of Vatican II was infallible. In fact, just about every ecumenical council has had at least one decision that was not infallible. The mistake many Traditionalists make is in failing to differentiate between possessing infallibility, and utilizing this charism. As an ecumenical council Vatican II had to possess the charism of infallibility. The fact that the Council Fathers may have opted not to utilize this charism does not mean the Council did not possess it. Many popes opt not to utilize their charism of infallibility. Would Traditionalists be so bold as to suggest that any Pope not utilizing infallibility does not possess that charism? Infallibility resides in the very office of the Supreme Roman Pontiff. Every Pope possesses infallibility.
So it is with Vatican II. All ecumenical councils, by nature, possess the charism of infallibility. It is up to the Council Fathers whether or not to use such charism. Traditionalists are, therefore, quite mistaken in so rashly deciding to reject Vatican II’s decisions. The Council may not have utilized the charism of infallibility, but it still possessed such charism. Vatican II’s decisions, therefore, warrant both our consideration, and our acceptance.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity