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Cardinal: ‘binding doctrinal content’ not major part of breach between Holy See, SSPX

May 22, 2012

The Second Vatican Council’s declarations on non-Christian religions and religious freedom do not contain “binding doctrinal content,” Cardinal Walter Brandmuller said at a press conference on May 21.

The retired president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, along with Archbishop Agostino Marchetto and Father Nicola Bux, is the coauthor of a newly published book, Le ‘Chiavi’ di Benedetto XVI per interpretare il Vaticano II [Benedict XVI’s ‘Keys’ for Interpreting Vatican II].

Stating that the conciliar documents have differing degrees of authority, Cardinal Brandmuller said that “there is a huge difference between a great constitution and simple declarations.”

“Strangely enough, the two most controversial documents [on religious liberty and relations with non-Christian religions] do not have a binding doctrinal content, so one can dialogue about them," he continued. "So I don't understand why our friends in the Society of St. Pius X concentrate almost exclusively on these two texts. And I'm sorry that they do so, because these are the two that are most easy to accept if we consider their canonical nature.”

Cardinal Brandmuller added that all the conciliar documents “must be taken seriously as expressions of the living Magisterium,” while Archbishop Marchetto said that Catholics must offer “at least an adhesion of intellect and will” to all of the documents.

“From what I have learned, there must be an acceptance of the Council by those who want to be reunited with the Church," said Archbishop Marchetto, the retired secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers. "I don't think the SSPX can say, 'Well, we'll set this or that document aside.'”

Cardinal Brandmuller said that the Society of St. Pius X, like the Old Catholics after the First Vatican Council, “have in common a rejection of the legitimate developments of the doctrine and life of the Church,” but the Society is not “insignificant” like the Old Catholics.

“We hope that the Holy Father's attempt to reunify the Church succeeds,” added the cardinal, who offered a solemn pontifical Mass in the extraordinary form at St Peter's Basilica last May.


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  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 22, 2012 8:17 AM ET USA

    On the one hand there must be "acceptance of the Council" while on the other there is much that does "not contain binding doctrinal content." "One can dialogue" about the contents. For years there has been great latitude in what this means for bishops, priests and laity; it has proven difficult for the Church to reconcile in practice. And it's in this arena of practice that the work of the salvation of souls can be, and it might be effectively argued, has been imperiled. This is problematic.