SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
DE ECCLESIA or LUMEN GENTIUM
II. The Mystery of the Church
THE critical study of the dogmatic Constitution De Ecclesia, also called Lumen gentium is the main axis of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. « It has so often been said, wrote Fr. de Nantes already in 1972, that Vatican II was going to start the Church off again on new foundations that it is impossible for us not to find in this very novelty the primary reason for this crisis. It is therefore necessary to study the novelties of Vatican II if we wish to detect the evil and find a solution to the decline of the Church. And the Church will be more beautiful, at Vatican III. » (CRC n° 52, p. 3)
A FAITHFUL WITNESS TO THE CHURCH
Before our modern times, the Church never felt the need to justify herself. She was satisfied to exist, to be a permanent miracle, a “ Sign ” raised up among the nations, to the exact extent of her fidelity to her divine Founder. And her children vied with one another to delight in their Mother’s perfections :
« The very thought of belonging to the Church is enough to renew the soul’s jubilation, for the Church is holy, like Her Spouse Jesus Christ, whom She has been made to resemble to such an extent, so that there is nothing in the world so beautiful, so wise and so majestic as Her face and Her whole being… » wrote our Father on March 19, 1963 in his Letter to my Friends no 134.
To stand in the way of Protestant heresy, then that of modernism, the Church of the Counter-Reformation presented itself, however, as a « perfect, visible and hierarchical society founded by Jesus Christ, whose members adhere to the same doctrine in submission to the same Roman authority, so as to obtain, by the grace of the Sacraments, eternal life ».
To this juridical and exact definition, that the First Vatican Council already wanted to develop, Pius XII added a more complete, dogmatic, allegorical and spiritual view in his encyclical “ Mystici Corporis Christi ” of June 29, 1943 : the Church, he taught, is a social Body, living and life-giving, whose uncreated soul is the Holy Spirit and whose created soul is the hierarchy. This very year, our Father entered the seminary :
« During this first year, I entrusted myself to the Church like a child to his mother, in order to receive everything from her and from no one else… Because I lived, I received my first Catholic heritage and my first clerical imprint in the Church of always, in the absence of all contestation and division, I can say that I am the legitimate child of this Church, the truthful and faithful witness… A certain party, which will soon dominate, may claim that it already existed and mistrusted me, but it was then “ clandestine ”. Nothing that is clandestine is Catholic, and there is nothing that is Catholic that must make itself clandestine in the Church. » (Mémoires et Récits, vol. II, p. 30)
A SACRILIGEOUS REFORMISM
In the years that followed the Liberation, this party of the contestation began to breathe a bad spirit into the Church of France. Its doctor was the Dominican Yves Congar, whose subversive doctrine Fr. de Nantes had denounced as soon as his book “ True and False Reform in the Church ” was published in 1951. Challenging his distinction, harbinger of the great upheavals, between the « unalterable structures » of the Church and the « accessory, changeable superstructures », our Father protested :
« I do not love a skeleton nor vital organs, I love Her face, Her sparkling clothes and even Her sandals, Her entire being. With the spiritual canticle I will sing of the hair on Her neck that charmed us as well, her children, like it ravished the heart of her Spouse. Oh, may those who love the Church understand ! In her features and her slightest gestures, something indescribably exquisite enraptures us to the summit of her essential Mystery. The liturgical movements, the hymns, the ornamentation of churches, the words of the catechism and the sermon, this flesh, this manner of walking, the sound of the voice, the colour of the eyes, revealed the very soul, immediately, and we were struck, intoxicated by it, for Her ancient and universal soul, Her intimate life that came to comfort us, was the Holy Spirit in Person ! » (Letter to my Friends no 178, August 6, 1964)
Furthermore, the Biblical notion – so rich – of the “ People of God ” was from that time twisted by the progressivist theologians from its Catholic and reactionary context into a revolutionary and democratic sense, according to which people in the Church would have the right and the capacity to govern themselves, the hierarchy exercising only a supportive, service role.
Now, « order and the true faith can only be saved by the parish priests in their parishes, the bishops in their diocese and the Sovereign Pontiff surrounded by his ministers at the centre, at Rome. All that is done to the contrary serves disorder and confusion. God grant that the authority of the Pope and the bishops emerge strengthened from the great struggle that is brewing » wrote Fr. de Nantes, on December 1, 1962. The same day in the conciliar aula, the progressivist minority succeeded in keeping out of the discussion of the Fathers, the traditional schema prepared long before by the Curia, and in substituting for it another one, of a totally different spirit.
A LUMINOUS MYSTERY
The first chapter of the Constitution “ Lumen gentium ” states from the outset that the Church is a Mystery. The traditionalists protested in vain that the Church was not, at first sight, a mystery, since her historical and hierarchical reality made her visible to everyone, a curtain of artificial fog spread over the precise and clear classical definition.
« Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. »
Fr. de Nantes denounced in these first words of the Counciliar text a new sense given to the word of Jesus. « I am the light of the world » « Whereas the Ancients would have understood this term as an attractive perfection, justifying Christ and the Church to convert and recapitulate within themselves all men, our Moderns intend to suggest the idea of a service that the Church must render to the world in its secular progress… It is no longer the Light of the Burning Bush which attracts men to the contemplation of the Divine Presence in the Desert. It is the light of the street lamp, of the powerful floodlight that men of the Church hold above the building site of the world in construction in order to light up the labour of their brothers, believers or unbelievers. » (CCR no 23, p. 5)
The supernatural Catholic idea gave way to humanist ideology. The Church was no longer self-sufficient. « She is no longer oriented towards the service of God, drawing men to this superior life for which she holds the keys. She is busy, with a passion for the world, for its success, providing it vaguely with an energy said to be divine, a light of the Spirit, a Christlike unction, in order to allow it to attain its complete fulfilment on earth. One could soon come to the conclusion that wherever “ spiritual ” or “ cultural ” animation, generosity, liberating struggles take place among men, in a new form, the Church is there ! » (ibid.)
A PEOPLE OF GODS
To assist this extension that the most revolutionary hoped for, the novelty was introduced surreptitiously by Cardinal Suenens. When the moment came to deal with the hierarchy, the Belgium prelate proposed that one attend first of all to the “ People of God ”, on the false pretext that the members of the hierarchy are a part of this people and that they are in their service. The majority of the Fathers exclaimed that this proposition was inspired by the Holy Spirit !
« It was a revolution. It was as though you defined the family as consisting of a certain number of real live children, some of whom are designated to be parents, because it is their role to be at the beck and call of the remaining children. What would you say of this ? That this definition falls down through idealism : just what is this “ life ”, where do the children get it from, when and how is it able to persist ? And it falls down through a major omission : it disregards the fact of generation, an initial and constituent fact without which all the rest is subverted. This collection of children no longer has to recognise any authority if the parents, whose essential role has been denied, see themselves reduced to the level of the domestics of their progeny ! Isn’t it absurd ? This is precisely what was invented at the Council, by simple inversion of the order of the chapters of the constitution Lumen gentium. There is, first of all, the People, and this People is presented, already existing, already illuminated, sanctified, gathered together before the slightest intervention of the Hierarchy, by the direct, invisible, disinterested, unexpected, unlimited action of the Holy Spirit ! The structure of the Church is inverted and its boundaries brought down. At last, we can breathe again ! » (CCR no 23, p. 6)
And this people, created by the Spirit, is of course adorned with all the perfections, all its members are declared « prophets, kings and priests ». Luther had already advocated this in his time, recalled a Protestant observer at the Council, who did not hide his satisfaction in seeing the Catholic Church rallying to the key idea of the Reformation. This “ People of God ”, a marvellously friendly formula went beyond Catholic boundaries into heretical, schismatic and pagan lands :
« All men are called to be part of this Catholic unity of the people of God, which in promoting universal peace, presages it. And there belong [sic!] to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation. » (Lumen gentium, no 13) Since then the Popes have taken it upon themselves to make endless, significant gestures in view of the great universal gathering in love Have no fear ! Open boundaries to Christ, especially those of the Church, by destroying its ramparts !
« A CITY HALF IN RUINS »
To this people inspired by the Spirit, Chapter III of the Constitution conferred, all the same, a hierarchy, giving it the mission of exercising its powers of teaching, of sanctification and of government, insisting on its role of “ service ” to the aforementioned people.
Let it be understood : the Holy Roman Church has always been compared to the Jerusalem of the Old Covenant, « built as a city, in one united whole » (Ps 122.3) Consequently, it can be deduced that, wherever Her divine Constitution, Her traditional order and Her unchanging doctrine is safeguarded, the edifice will remain standing, somehow. Wherever they are called into question, there will be nothing but ruins and desolation.
This is what took place in the conciliar Church : the leaders of the “ People of God ” who forgot the duties of their function, pertaining to the good of their subjects, saw their authority destroyed in the storm that followed the Council. Others, such as Cardinal Luciani who became the holy Pope John Paul I, did not forget them and set as a line of conduct for himself the warning of his predecessor, Saint Gregory : « May the Pastor be close to the faithful with compassion. Forgetting his rank, may he consider himself to be the equal of his good faithful, but may he not fear to exercise against the wicked the rights of his authority. » (Homily at Saint John of Lateran, on 23 September 1978)
How can one’s mission be maintained, when collegiality – another epic battle of the Council – deprived the bishops of all personal authority, to the sole benefit of irresponsible assemblies, governed themselves by their bureaucracies. For the invasion of the democratic spirit into the Church with the help of the Council brought about the establishing of a parliament quite contrary to the traditional discipline of the Church. A new legalism was substituted to the former one, more demanding and more arbitrary, in the guise of good sentiments and of utopian “ sheepfolds ”. « Before the Council, our bishops, exercised a real and personal authority over a limited territory. They now exercise over immense regions and an unlimited universe, an appearance of power without real authority. »
Fortunately for the Church, a Nota prævia added to the text of Lumen gentium, made a last minute correction to what was too revolutionary in the new Constitutional Charter. But, as our Father pointed out, « what a strange idea to promulgate the poison in the conciliar Act and its antidote in an annexe » !
The promotion of the laity, to which Chapter IV is devoted, heralded many disorders as well. « The day when worship gives way to culture, the heavenly to the temporal, the day when politics encroaches on religion, the first role passes from the priesthood to the laity. To it falls, first of all, the task of “ transforming structures in accordance with the Gospel ”. The “ ministers of the Gospel ” hold the streetlight but it is the laity who do the work. » (CCR no 23, p. 7) Already Luther dreamed of such a secular Christianity, a faith without worship, that does not get in the way of “ good business ”.
We will come back to the last chapters of the Constitution : holiness offered to everyone, religious life, and individual last ends. They seem to maintain the ancient religion like erratic blocks of another age, in a context that seems quite unreal. The project is « a voyage to Venus, an invitation to dreamland, a good news born yesterday and still radiating with wonderful fire for the approaching happiness of all mankind. Old believers will not recognise in this language the gravity and humility of the true religion and of its austere preaching. » (Critical Analysis of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCR no 253, p. 16)
Finally, Chapter VIII, on the Virgin Mary, is added here as an appendix, without any connection with what precedes other than its insistence on showing the spirit of humility, of poverty and of service of She who called herself the “ Servant of the Lord ”. In the detestable democratic standpoint of Lumen gentium, one suffers from the abuse heaped on the Immaculate, Queen of Heaven, Mediatrix of all grace !
TOMORROW, VATICAN III
In the restoration of the Church through a Council of Catholic Reconciliation, the Virgin Mary will play an essential role. She will be at the centre and the origin of any renewal. Her apparitions of the XIXth and the XXth century have sufficiently demonstrated the intimate connection between God’s plans for Her and for the Church that she carries in Her Heart. Today, it is in this Immaculate Heart that our Catholic faith and our hope in the Resurrection find refuge, like on the day of Holy Saturday. Tomorrow, thanks to Her, everyone will understand that there is nothing better, nothing more true and more beautiful, than to belong to the Roman Catholic Church.
This Church is “ One ” and perfect, it is God’s only durable project in history, the only Ark of salvation for persons and societies. This Mother is “ Holy ”, an instrument of grace, the means and the place of the true religion. “ Catholic ”, she forms an organised whole, a mystical Body whose Head is Christ and whose Soul is the Holy Spirit, bringing His divine energy to strengthen her desire for fidelity. And since nothing good comes about without authority, she is “ Apostolic ”. It is through the Apostles and their legitimate successors that the work of God is accomplished. This is why, today like yesterday, the cry of Fr. de Nantes and his children rise up towards our legitimate Pastors.
Taken from He is Risen ! n° 8, April 2003, p. 17-20