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Chapter 4: Non-Catholic Christian Churches
   Non-Catholic Christian Teaching
      111. Lefebvrite Reasoning?

{111.1} Q. One of the major arguments of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his organization, SSPX (Society of St. Pius X), against the deliberations and decisions of the Second Vatican Council is that Vatican II was a mere "pastoral council." It's my understanding that any council of the Catholic Church is at one and the same time pastoral, ecumenical and dogmatic, and that that is a view that began with the Council of Jerusalem. Where did Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX find their sources to back this rather self-serving position?

{111.2} A. A dogmatic council is one which specifically defines, and makes plain it is defining, distinct matters of faith and morals. Vatican II was explicitly a pastoral council.

{111.3} The most important document of Vatican II was the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). Just days before the final version of this constitution was voted on, the secretary general of the council issued this announcement:

{111.4} "A query has been made as to what is the theological qualification to be attached to the teaching put forward in the schema The Church, on which a vote is to be taken. The doctrinal commission has replied to this query in appraising the modi proposed to the third chapter of the schema The Church. [Chapter 3 discusses 'The Church As Hierarchical.']"

{111.5} Then the secretary general quoted from a declaration by the doctrinal commission on March 6, 1964:

{111.6} "Taking into account conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present council, the sacred synod defined as binding on the Church only those matters of faith and morals which it has expressly put forward as such."

{111.7} In fact, Vatican II did not explicitly issue any definition of faith and morals. The Lefebvrists have seized on this fact to justify their divergence from what the council did teach. They say, in effect, "If it's not solemnly defined, we're not bound by it." They try to ignore the remainder of the doctrinal commission's statement, which is as follows:

{111.8} "Whatever else it [the council] proposes as the teaching of the supreme magisterium of the Church is to be acknowledged and accepted by each and every member of the faithful ['Lefebvrists, are you listening?'] according to the mind of the council which is clear from the subject matter and its formulation, following the norms of theological interpretation."

{111.9} Like all dissenters who still call themselves "Catholics," the Lefebvrists have become Protestants: "Don't listen to the Church; listen to us. We'll tell you what is the authentic faith." [Martin Luther, welcome your new converts!]

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