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Cardinal Levada speaks at symposium on Vatican II

September 28, 2012

Cardinal William Levada, until recently the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, delivered a 13-page keynote address at a Catholic University of America symposium on the Second Vatican Council.

“The truth of our faith has been safeguarded and illumined by the work of the councils, as promised by Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles,” Cardinal Levada said. “Today’s culture is often skeptical about claims to know the truth: so we get along by agreeing that one person’s opinion is as good as another’s, and that we must live by ‘our own truth’ … In my view, a renewed apologetics for our time should be placed among the unfinished tasks bequeathed to us by the Council, and an important project for every Catholic university.”

“It is true to say that Vatican II was by intention a ‘pastoral’ council,” he continued. “From this, however, one cannot infer that the Council’s teachings are not “doctrinal.” Teaching the Gospel of life and salvation is the chief ‘pastoral’ task of the Bishop; it is doctrinal in its principles and pastoral in its applications … The teachings of Vatican II, even if not infallibly proclaimed, must be taken as ‘normative’ (always in accord with their intention and purpose) by all of us Catholics today,” he added. “Rather than pastoral or doctrinal, we should say of the Council that it was pastoral and doctrinal.”

Cardinal Levada criticized the rejection of conciliar teaching by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the “hermeneutic of discontinuity” that followed the council in some places. “The Council, like all of the Apostolic Tradition, finds its authentic, authoritative interpretation, not in the judgment of individuals or groups (such has been the origin of schisms from the Church), but rather in the judgment of the Church’s Magisterium, according to the promise of Christ to the Apostles,” he said, adding:

About four years ago the Dominican Province in the Netherlands sent a letter to every parish in the country outlining their position on how to meet the shortage of priests that prevents people from having Mass offered in their own parish church every Sunday. They proposed not only the ordination of women and married men, but also advanced the theory that in the absence of an ordained priest, the worshipping assembly could designate its own presider who could lead them in a valid Eucharist.

It does not take an expert in theology to recognize such a view as heretical, since only a validly ordained priest can celebrate a valid Eucharist (cf. CCC n. 1411). Here is an example of the confusion caused by an attempted interpretation of Church doctrine that is “in discontinuity, even rupture” with the Tradition of the Church. In order to repair the scandal caused, the Master General of the Order required the Provincial to send to the same parishes an article prepared by the Dominican theologian Fr. LeGrand, OP, presenting the correct Catholic doctrine on each of the points raised by his Dutch confreres.


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  • Posted by: SacredHeart - Sep. 28, 2012 11:03 AM ET USA

    Levada appears to be an expert in double speak, or circular logic, or something. He is quoted as admitting that Vatican II was by intention a pastoral council, not a doctrinal one, then sums up his swirling verbal dust devil by proclaiming that it is both. For the record, it was a pastoral council.