The Post-Conciiar Church: A New Religion?
Featured in April 2003 issue of The Angelus, a publication of the Society of Saint Pius X, the organization founded by Archbishop Lefebvre.
Is it possible to say that the post-Conciliar Church is a new religion, and if so, how can it be considered as Catholic? The answer to this question is found in the final declaration of the International Symposium of Theology organized by the Society of St. Pius X and attended by 62 traditional Catholic theologians in Paris in October 2002. The purpose of the statement was to put together a synthesis of the teaching of Vatican II, and to clarify the main principles upon which it differs from the teaching of the Magisterium. These broad lines can be helpful for us in interpreting the documents of the post-Conciliar Church, and refuting its errors. They demonstrate beyond all doubt that Archbishop Lefebvre was right when he affirmed that the spirit of Vatican II is not just an abuse of some liberal theologians and bishops, but that it is contained in the very texts of the Council itself. If the liberals continually refer to the texts of Vatican II, it is because from these texts themselves emanates, under the sweet appearance of kindness and dialogue, the stench of naturalism, of the corruption of the Faith.
The theologians affirmed that there are eight main, fundamental attitudes that underlie all the post-Conciliar changes, which eight philosophical principles masquerading as religion make of Vatican II the introduction of a new religion, all within the exterior structure, hierarchy, language and ceremonies of the Catholic Church. Allow me to list them for you.
There is no attempt to hide the desire for newness, that is of a new and different religion, despite the assertion that the Faith has not changed. A transformation is required "too on the religious level," following the "real social and cultural transformation" of our "new age of history" (Gaudium et Spes, §4). Hence the need for an aggiornamento, bringing religion up to date with our times. One of the great means for bringing about this novelty, whilst appearing to profess the same doctrines, is the teaching "that in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or ‘hierarchy’ of truths" (Unitatis Redintegratio, §11). It is consequently possible, they say, to hold on to only the most fundamental truths, discarding or putting the others aside. This is the basis of the novelty of ecumenism and dialogue, which is truly a new religion, for it requires Catholics to accept the beliefs of other believers.
2) The Overturning of Ends
The heart of our holy religion is man’s vocation to "praise, reverence and serve God," as the catechism teaches us. Not so for Vatican II. Man is no longer ordered to God, but to man. It is the service of man rather than the service of God which is its final end; "it is man, therefore, who is the key to this discussion" (GS, §3), for "man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake" (ibid., §24), and so consequently the purpose of religion is for man to "fully discover his true self" (ibid.). How could it be any differently, since the very same document on the Church and the Modern World declares that: "Believers and unbelievers agree almost unanimously that all things on earth should be ordained to man as to their center and summit" (§12). The dignity of the human person has been so far inflated as to deny the obvious fact that man is entirely ordered to the greater honor and glory of Almighty God. This is the basis of the new religion of man proclaimed by Paul VI on December 7, 1965, during his discourse for the closing of Vatican II: "We more than anyone else practice the worship of man."
3) "Conscience" Is the Source of Religion
No longer must the Catholic make an act of Faith, based upon the authority of God who reveals, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. The deliberate elimination of this concept from the Vatican II document on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum) is not accidental. Tradition is no longer a separate source of Revelation, handing down an unchanging, objective content, but is now a "life-giving presence," "the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they (i.e., believers) experience" (ibid. §8), and thus it "makes progress in the Church" and consequently "the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth." Such an evolving and changing concept of Tradition would not be possible unless religious truth, like right and wrong itself, were to find it source in the personal conscience of each man. This is the clear presupposition of the document on religious liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, as Archbishop Lefebvre himself pointed out (cf. They Have Uncrowned Him, p.172). Examples of statements to this effect are that "truth can impose itself on the mind of man only in virtue of its own truth" (Dignitatis Humanae, §2), which forbids any authoritative teaching by the Church or its representatives, or any exclusive promotion of objective truth by a Catholic state. Conscience must discover its own truth internally. Likewise the statement that "it is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of the divine law" (ibid., §3). Truly it is a new religion that substitutes personal conscience for the teaching of the Magisterium.
4) The Liturgy is a Celebration
A memorial is celebrated, whereas a sacrifice is offered. The celebration of the community, otherwise called the memorial of the Last Supper, has taken the place of the sacrifice of the Cross in post-Conciliar theology. Consequently it is the congregation of the people that is the principal agent for the celebration in the new rite, no longer simply participating or cooperating in the priest’s sacrifice. If the ministerial priesthood is indeed distinguished from the priesthood of the faithful, in practice its functions are absorbed into those of the general priesthood of the faithful, whom they simply represent in a celebration. Hence such statements as this, concerning those who have been "incorporated into the Church by baptism": "The sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly community is brought into operation through the sacraments and the exercise of virtues" (Lumen Gentium, §11). Consequently, if the New Mass is the expression of a new religion, it is because it obliterates the true, sacrificial function of the hierarchical priesthood, submerging it as a part of a community celebration.
5) The Church has Become a "Sacrament"
The revolutionary definition with which the document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, begins is the key to the undermining of the whole supernatural order. Instead of the traditional definition of Church as the "congregation of all baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff" is substituted a whole new definition that "the Church …is in the nature of a sacrament —a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (§1). The Church is consequently only a sign or a means of salvation, and is no longer the only Ark of Salvation. Hence it is no longer considered as being identical to the visible Roman Catholic Church, but extends as far as all humanity, without which it could not be a sign of unity among all men. This is the meaning of the statements that the Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic Church" (ibid., §8) and that "many elements of sanctification and truth are found outside its visible confines" (ibid.). According to these principles, the Catholic Church can no longer maintain the unique privilege of her divine constitution and mission. It is a sign of a new religion that all that the post-Conciliar Church can ask for is freedom, and not for the recognition of the truth, nor for the commandments of God, nor for her divine mission to teach, govern, and sanctify. This is explicitly stated in Vatican II’s message to the world’s governments of December 8, 1965: "She [the Church] only asks you for freedom."
6) "Humanity" Coincides with the Kingdom of God
This is a direct consequence of the distinction that is made between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church. The Church of Christ is the sign of the unity of all mankind because of what it symbolizes: "It shows to the world that social and exterior union comes from a union of hearts and minds" (GS, §42). However, it is manifestly not a supernatural union of grace which is here symbolized. It would not make any sense, for such a union can only be brought about inside and through the Catholic Church. The social and exterior union that is aimed at has nothing to do with the supernatural union of grace, but is "the good to be found in the social dynamism of today, particularly progress towards unity, healthy socialization and civil and economic cooperation" (ibid.). Such is the new universality of a Church whose function has become the promotion of human values, all founded on the rights of man, and falsely based upon the Gospel: "In virtue of the Gospel entrusted to it the Church proclaims the rights of man: she acknowledges and holds in high esteem the dynamic approach of today which is fostering these rights all over the world" (ibid. §41). Amongst other things, this new concept of the Church’s role with respect to humanity is a denial of the Social Kingship of Christ, and an official approval of the secularization of states. The new mission to promote the "union of the family of man" (ibid. §42), i.e., One World Order, is another aspect of a new religion.
7) The Spiritual Unity of Mankind
A direct consequence of the identification of mankind and the kingdom of God, it is presented in the form of different degrees of Communion or belonging to the Church. Despite the "differences that exist in varying degrees," concerning doctrine, discipline, or the structure of the Church, the decree on Ecumenism declares of non-Catholics: "Men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church" (UG, §3). The immediate consequences are:
the Church’s repentance "ceaselessly renewing and purifying herself" (GS, §21) for its own past faults (and not just for those of its members),
and that conversion is no longer to be imposed on non-Catholics, baptized or not,
because all Christians are already united to Christ through baptism, as is stated by the Decree on the Church: "these Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit" (LG, §15),
and non-Christians are ordered towards the people of God, for "those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways" (ibid., §16) and they possess in their religion the "seeds of the word" (Ad Gentes, §11).
This practical denial of the doctrine "Outside the Church no salvation" is also one of the key elements of a new religion, and changes the whole way that Catholics see themselves and their Faith.
There is an explanation of the supposed unity of the human race. It is the teaching on salvation contained in the document on the Church and the modern world, Gaudium et Spes, in the infamous §22 that proclaims the new humanism. The thesis is that by His Incarnation God saved every human being, uniting every man to Himself by taking our human nature: "For, by his incarnation, he, the son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man." No longer is there any need for faith, the keeping of the commandments, or for love of the Cross to be united with God. Vatican II claims that by taking our human nature Christ "fully reveals man to himself" so "that the mystery of man truly becomes clear." The role of the Incarnation is consequently purely natural. It supposedly saves man by showing himself what it is to be a man. Man’s natural knowing of his human nature is substituted for eternal salvation. One is reminded of the words of Our Lord: "For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his soul" (Mt. 16:26). Here the substitution of a new religion is absolutely radical. In such an optic-salvation has nothing to do with being saved from original or actual sin or being delivered from the everlasting punishments that we have merited. It is simply an awareness of what it is to be a man.
It consequently cannot be denied that Vatican II attempts to constitute a new religion in radical rupture with all of Catholic Tradition and teaching, a new religion whose principal purpose is to exalt the natural dignity of the human person and to bring about a "religious" unity of mankind. However, the subtle cleverness of this operation must also be noted. It is the traditional hierarchical structure of the Church, its Mass, its devotions and prayers, its catechisms and teachings, and now even its Rosary that have all been infiltrated with the principles of the new religion. This new religion has been swallowed down unwittingly by many Catholics precisely because it hides, as a caricature, behind the outward appearance of Catholicism. The end result is a strange mixture of Catholicism and the new religion.
This is the reason for which we have every right to condemn the post-Conciliar revolution for the new religion that it is, while at the same time we must respect the offices and functions of those who hold positions in the Church. Likewise, we must admit that many Catholics in good faith still retain the true Faith in their hearts, believing on the authority of God, Who reveals divine truth through the Catholic Church, although it is often tainted to varying degrees by the principles of the new religion. Consequently, it does not at all follow from the fact that the Vatican II religion is truly a new religion, that we should maintain that we are the only Catholics left, that the bishops and the pope have necessarily lost the Faith, and that we must not pray for them or respect their position in the Church. This false assertion of the sedevacantists is much too simple, and does not account for the complicated mixture of the new religion and the elements of Catholic Faith and life that is the reality that is actually happening in the Novus Ordo. Our duty is not to condemn and excommunicate, but to help Catholics of good faith in the modern Church to make the necessary discernment, in order to totally abandon the new religion, embrace Tradition, and remain Catholic. Such must be the goal of our conversations on the subject. [Answered by Fr. Peter Scott]