Sedevacantism and the hermeneutics of discontinuity

The Most Holy Family Monastery (MHFM) has posted a huge number of videos on YouTube, all of which I will not attempt to answer. I will, however, deal with one recent video, posted on the 15th of January 2010, claiming to present the “most specific and irrefutable heresy of Vatican II”. I hope this post will illustrate the weak and subjective foundation that the Sedevacantist schism is based on.

The argument of the video is as follows: The Council of Florence declared ex cathedra that anyone who holds a view different from the Catholic Church’s teaching on Jesus Christ or the Trinity is rejected by God. This simply reiterates Matthew 10:33: Jesus will deny the one that denies Jesus. But Vatican II, in Nostra Aetate 4, declared that “the Jews should not be presented as rejected or cursed by God”. Br. Peter Dimond then declares this statement “blatantly heretical”. He cites as his main proof the fact that Vatican II uses the very same verb (rebrobare=to reject) as Florence, but to teach the exact opposite.

Based on this evidence, Dimond says that “there can be absolutely no doubt that Vatican II denies the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Florence”, and that “anyone who would deny that Vatican II teaches heresy, in light of these facts, is simply a liar”. Well, all I can say is that Br. Peter is hereby refuted, because in my mind there definitely is a doubt about whether Vatican II denies the dogmatic teaching of the Council of Florence. Why would the Catholic Bishops want to deny something they all believed one is bound to believe? Even if I’m wrong, the doubt is there, and so Peter Dimond is wrong.

Furthermore, even though I have now seen the “light of these facts”, i.e. two magisterial documents as interpreted by Br. Dimond, plus one linguistic argument by the same man, I can and will still “deny that Vatican II teaches heresy”. Do I do that because I’m “a liar”? No, I do it because the argument doesn’t convince me at all. It’s not that clear and irrefutable, despite all the triumphalistic words of Br. Dimond. Let me illustrate.

St. Paul, in Romans 3:10, writes: “There is none righteous, no, not one”. He is talking about non-Christians. But in the Acts of the Apostles, 10:22, it is stated that Cornelius, a non-Christian, was a “righteous” man. Does this make Acts a “blatantly heretical” book? Let me cite additional evidence. Paul uses the Greek term dikaios in Romans 3:10. But Acts 10:22 uses the very same Greek word, dikaios, to teach the exact opposite! Now, “anyone who would deny that Acts teaches heresy is simply a liar”, right?

Wrong. What we have here is simply a challenge, a difficulty, one out of thousands and thousands of difficulties that can be thought up by comparing all the different data we have in the sources of faith. If even in the canon of Scripture two authors can use the same words in seemingly opposite ways, and yet we believe there is no true contradiction between them, why would we apply a completely different standard to Florence and Vatican II? Why would we insist on a hermeneutic of discontinuity in Church documents while insisting on a hermeneutic of unity in reading the Bible?

As St. Thomas says in the 8th Article of the 1st Question in the Summa, “the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated”, “the arguments brought against faith cannot be demonstrations, but are difficulties that can be answered”. This is the attitude the Catholic should take with regard to the Scriptural as well as the Magisterial documents. I’m not sure if I have the right answer to the difficulties presented above, but I treat them as difficulties, not as demonstrations of the falsity of the faith. One possible answer to the Nosta Aetate problem would be that the point of the document is to say that God hasn’t rejected Jews in the sense that he still wants them to be saved (and that through the Church, which has just been called the new people of God).

But the main point, I think, has been established. Although MHFM wants to make it look like Vatican II is clearly and irrefutably heretical, it’s not all that objective after all. It comes down to one’s subjective, fallible opinions on which arguments demonstrate what, and most of all it comes down to one’s hermeneutics. If we want to find problems and contradictions, we’ll find them. If we want to solve contradictions and find the unity, we’ll succeed in that as well. The question is simply whether we want to argue against or with the living, hierarchical Church. Who do the promises in Mt 16:18, 28:20, John 16:13, etc, apply to?

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