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:: Wednesday, October 01, 2003 ::

Confuting a Common Error of Self-styled 'Traditionalists':

The following is one of the very few new sections written for the third edition of my treatise when the latter was given a long-desired thorough revision last December and January. Certain boilerplate arguments have simply been reiterated too often and uncritically accepted as valid: and I have grown tired of reinventing the wheel in dissipating them over the years. I therefore decided a few years ago to address a few of them in the treatise when I got around to revising and reformatting the work. (A project that was for various reasons two years delayed in achieving.)

Now obviously with any work one has to be careful in how much they deal with subject-wise. However, the reconstituted form of the treatise onto multiple smaller urls -even recasting some previously individual parts of the work into separate urls for the sake of economy- made it easier to evaluate some points which due to the previous structure of the work could not be dealt with adequately.

Of the areas passed over previously, some of them were primary subjects and others were ancillary to primary subjects. Among the latter that I had thought for a long time about addressing was the facile distinction so often seen in "trad" circles where the authority of the Second Vatican Council was dismissed because it was "pastoral" and supposedly not "dogmatic." Such a statement indicates a serious ignorance of Catholic dogmatics; ergo it needed to be addressed properly. So I decided to do so whenever I got around to restructuring the work.

In light of how I did not explicitly frame the discussion in the form of an essay, section to an essay, or even weblog entry previous to early January of this year, obviously I cannot expect this understanding to have yet exerted much influence on the way people of good will view these matters. So I have decided today after reading another appeal to this pathetic argumentation to post here for the readers of my weblogs a hermeneutic of proper interpretation for understanding the terms "dogmatic" and "pastoral" according to the mind of the Church. But that is not all.

I hereby challenge anyone who uses these terms in the stock Integrist manner to either refute what I am about to say or cease their misuse of these terms. Without further ado, here is a new section to the Vatican II and its Authority material from that work.

The "Dogmatic-Pastoral" Artificial Dichotomy

There is some truth to the assertion that the Council was "predominantly pastoral in character" but the dichotomy made between "dogmatic" and "pastoral" - as if something "pastoral" is automatically not "dogmatic" in any sense whatsoever - is frankly a facile one. It has no support whatsoever from the Magisterium of the Church and therefore it should not be handled with the kind of smug certainty that many so-called 'traditionalists' like to utilize it. At the very least, it seems to this writer that "pastoral" and "dogmatic" as concepts should not be interpreted not in a vacuum. Instead, the meaning of the expressions should be sought in light of the way pastoral theology and dogmatic theology respectively are viewed. The following quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia article Pastoral Theology defines this concept as it applies to theology in general:

Pastoral theology is a branch of practical theology; it is essentially a practical science. All branches of theology, whether theoretical or practical, purpose in one way or another to make priests "the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God" (I Cor., iv, 1). Pastoral theology presupposes other various branches; accepts the apologetic, dogmatic, exegetic, moral, juridical, ascetical, liturgical, and other conclusions reached by the ecclesiastical student, and scientifically applies these various conclusions to the priestly ministry. [12]

Before delving into all that pastoral theology entails, a look at how it differs from dogmatic and other fields of theology would be in order as well:

Dogmatic theology establishes the Church as the depository of revealed truth and systematizes the deposit of faith which Christ entrusted to His Church to hand down to all generations; pastoral theology teaches the priest his part in this work of Catholic and Christian tradition of revealed truth. Moral theology explains the laws of God and of the Church, the means of grace and hindrances thereto; pastoral theology teaches the practical bearing of these laws, means, and hindrances upon the daily life of the priest, alone and in touch with his people. Canon law collects, correlates, and co-ordinates the laws of the Church; pastoral theology applies those laws to the care of souls. In brief, pastoral theology begins, where the other theological sciences leave off; takes the results of them all and makes these results effective for the salvation of souls through the ministry of the priesthood established by Christ. [13]

In "presuppos[ing] the fields of apologetic, dogmatic, moral, juridical, and other fields of study in its applications to the care of souls", pastoral theology would not be divorced from the other sciences. (Indeed to some extent it would rely on them.) Hence one could accurately say that pastoral theology is indirectly concerned with dogmatic theology as well as moral theology and juridical theology (canon law). Transposing these distinctions onto the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council by corollary extension, it could be logically asserted that a Council that was "predominantly pastoral in character" would nonetheless have an indirect foundation in dogmatics; consequently a "pastoral council" would be "indirectly dogmatic" and presupposing the foundation of dogmatic theology in its pronouncements. (Which by asserting that the Council unlike previous Councils was not "directly dogmatic" is precisely what Pope Paul noted in several general audience speeches in the final thirteen years of his reign.)

By contrast, most of the earlier ecumenical councils were "predominantly dogmatic" but that did not detract from the fact that most of them also issued canons of disciplinary import as well. The distinction would be that most of the earlier councils were called to resolve a doctrinal crisis and disciplinary issues were an addendum issue if they were treated on at all. (Councils such as Constantinople II and III did not treat on disciplinary matters at all whereas by contrast of the five Lateran councils only the fourth was not predominantly concerned with matters of discipline.)

With the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, it was called not to address any one point of doctrine but instead to address the application of all Church doctrine to more effectively meet the conditions of the modern age. In the process, (i) previous dogmas of the faith would be reaffirmed, (ii) previously declared doctrines reasserted and perhaps developed a bit further, and (iii) theological controversies which touched on matters closely joined to dogma would be settled. Further still, (iv) doctrine would be developed to meet the needs of the age in certain parameters, (v) the disciplinary code would be revised, and (vi) the overarching approach in all areas would lean more to doctrinal exposition and its application then to dogmatic formulations. The tools used for this process would mirror those used in pastoral theology and include the following:

Tradition and the Holy Bible...are the first sources of pastoral theology. As evidence of Tradition the decrees of general councils are of the highest moment. Next come pontifical [documents]; decrees of Roman Congregations...the various sources of dogmatic and moral theology and of canon law, in so far as they bear directly or indirectly upon the care of souls. Decrees of various provincial councils and diocesan synods together with pastoral letters of archbishops and bishops are also among the sources whence pastoral theology draws. [14]

If one reads the index of every document from the Second Vatican Council, they will see copious references to Sacred Scripture. There are also numerous references to the documents of the General Councils. (Particularly Vatican I and Trent but there is also more than thirty references to other ecumenical councils - particularly the councils of Florence, Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Lateran IV, Constantinople IV, and Nicaea II.) There are also numerous references to documents from the papal magisterium - particularly Pius XII, Pius XI, John XXIII, and Leo XIII - along with various other papal pronouncements. (Such as Allocutions and Radio/General Addresses.) Included in this mosaic are references to the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church among other sources. Finally, the use was also made of documents from plenary councils which had received papal approbation, decrees from the Roman Congregations, etc.

Consistent with the understanding of "pastoral" in theology, the Second Vatican Council certainly fulfills the criteria in its usage of sources spanning the dogmatic, moral, and other fields of study. As far as the dependence of pastoral theology on dogmatic theology, the Catholic Encyclopedia article Dogmatic Theology had this to say about the correlation:

Pastoral theology, which embraces liturgy, homiletics, and catechetics, proceeded from, and bears close relationship to, moral theology; its dependence on dogmatic theology needs, therefore, no further proof. [15]

And just as "no further proof" is needed to demonstrate the dependence of pastoral theology on dogmatic theology, there is no further proof needed to refute the facile dichotomy of "pastoral" and "dogmatic" when it comes to Vatican II when compared with most of the previous ecumenical councils. It suffices to say that most previous councils were directly dogmatic and indirectly pastoral whereas with Vatican II the converse was the case. But it does not suffice to say that the predominantly pastoral character of the Second Vatican Council precluded any active dogmatic elements at all and (as a consequence) any formal infallibility. [I. Shawn McElhinney: A Prescription Against 'Traditionalism'" Part VI (c. 2003, 2000)]

Again, it is not enough for people to wave around terms they have not defined. Yet this is what self-styled "traditionalists" do with referring to Vatican II as a "pastoral council" while referring to other councils (such as Trent) as "dogmatic councils." (As if every syllable of Trent was of the same theological qualification.)

Now then, I have explained what the terms "pastoral" and "dogmatic" mean as they have traditionally applied to the branches of Catholic theology. These are also how to properly understand the approbation of "pastoral" to the Second Vatican Council. I hereby call those who abuse these terms and who claim to be faithful Catholics to cease doing so and properly submit to the Second Vatican Council. Otherwise, they misrepresent themselves as a "faithful Catholic" to others in violation of the commandment against false witness.

Oh, lest I forget, the footnotes in the above selection are from the Catholic Encyclopedia. The first three are from the article Pastoral Theology. The fourth footnote is from the article Dogmatic Theology.

:: Shawn 4:45 PM [+] ::


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