27.5.10

Vatican II Not Just a 'Pastoral' Council, But Also a Dogmatic One

What Pope John* perhaps did not fully realise is the fact that even a mere pastoral council cannot avoid entering the field of the dogma of the church, least of all in the Roman Church, where not only the constitution, but also every ethical decision is rooted in an unalterable dogma. What was possible and what John's council would do in a remarkable way is the avoidance of anathemas which previous councils hurled so liberally against anything which was suppoosed to smell of heresy, from socialism to Bible societies. However, not even the humblest and friendliest of Popes and a truly spiritually minded council can avoid far-reaching dogmatic decisions. So at least two of the documents issued are by nature dogmatic - the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen gentium "light of the nations") and the Dogmatic Constitution on the Divine Revelation (Dei verbum "the Word of God"). Both contain very important doctrinal decisions which every Catholic is obliged to accept, thought it is never stated which articles are to be accepted fide catholica ("as the Catholic Faith").

*Pope John XXIII (1881-1963), the Pope who called the Second Vatican Council and presided over its first sessions before his untimely death.

From Ten Years After the Council, Some Thoughts for Ecumenical Discussion, published in the Reformed Theological Review (Melbourne), 35:1, January-April 1976.

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