Tracing the ambiguities
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    Tracing the ambiguities

    Jack P. Oostveen,


    1. Introduction
    2. A private meeting
    3. Ambiguity
    4. Conclusion
    5. References


    It is generally acknowledged that many ambiguities exist within the Vatican II documents [01]. These ambiguities were deliberated, and have had significant consequences. In this article, some of these ambiguities are analysed by identifying them, their location in specific documents, the risks associated with each and the consequences arising therefrom.

    Fundamental Principle
    Any ambiguity, conflicting compromise and partial silencing of the teaching in a Council document is a risk that such a document will be misinterpreted. Therefore, any deliberated ambiguity, conflicting compromises, and partial silencing of doctrine is a clear betrayal of the Holy Spirit, especially if it is a result of “closed” or so-called "private" group meetings.

    Fr. Annibale Bugnini made the following proposal in 1961 before a closed number of members and consultants of the Vatican II Preparatory Commission on Liturgy in 1961 [02]: "It would be most inconvenient for articles of our Constitution to be rejected by the Central Commission or by the Council itself. That is why we must tread carefully and discreetly. Carefully, so that proposals be made in an acceptable manner (modo acceptabile), or, in my opinion, formulated in such a way that much is said without seeming to say anything: let many things be said in embryo (in nuce) and in this way let the door remain open to legitimate and possible post-conciliar deductions and applications: let nothing be said that suggests excessive novelty and might invalidate all the rest, even what is straightforward and harmless (ingenua et innocentia). We must proceed discreetly. Not everything is to be asked or demanded from the Council – the essentials, the fundamental principles [are] ".

    This is a clear call by a rebellious spirit of lies and deceit to delude and betray the Council Fathers offending the Holy Spirit, and should have raised alarm. It is the origin of the methodology deliberately introducing ambiguities into the Vatican II documents.

    While this method (deliberate inclusion of ambiguities) had been initiated by Fr. Annibale Bugnini in the preparatory period of the Council, it is confirmed as also having been common practice within the Council’s Commissions, and used with the specific intention of deluding the majority of Council Fathers. Near the end of the Council during an interview printed in the Dutch Dominicum weekly 'Bazuin', on the occasion of the publication of the first edition of the International Theological Magazine 'Concilium' (February 1965) Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx O.P. made this confirmation that the spirit of lies and deceit had worked behind the screen of the Council too. He said [03]: "We will express it in a diplomatic way, but after the Council we will draw out implicit conclusions".

    Private meeting

    A clear and extended description of such attitude can specifically be found in the published Diary of Fr. Henry de Lubac SJ [04]. He reported about the second private and thus closed meeting held at Bishop Volk’s residence on Sunday, November 18, 1962, by 6 pages of highlighting quotes [04]: "I was invited to the ‘the Mater Dei’ boarding house by Bishop Volk of Mainz. There were about 18 of us: 6 German bishops (Schröffer, bishop of Eichstätt; H. Schäuffele, from Freiburg, Volk from Mainz, P.Rusch from Innsbrück, etc.); 4 French bishops (Garonne, Elchinger, Pourchet, and the auxiliary of Lille); theologians from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland ... ". Bishop Volk started this meeting by saying [04]: "This is an absolutely private meeting, to examine freely among ourselves how we can get out of this impasse. ... ".

    This private meeting is also mentioned by Fr. Yves Congar as well as by Peter Seewald’s ‘Benedict XVI a Life’ [21]. The summaries reported of this private meeting by the Frs. Henry de Lubac [04] and Yves Congar [05] show a strong rebellious and conspiracy spirit against the Holy Office.

    Rebellious for putting themselves on the Seat of Peter by judging the Holly Office, the executive office of the Pope that concerns Peter’s main task given by Christ: (1) to affirm his brethren and therefore (2) to protect the Faith from false beliefs or heresies, and (3) to protect faithful from confusion. And consequently, while the Pope himself presides over the Holy Office, it is in fact the Pope who is the subject of their judgment. Thereby, this "Faith of the Holy Office" is even considered as being at the same level of non-Catholics [04]: "There are, between the two groups that confront each other now, a divergence, not only in their way of doing theology, but in their way of understanding the faith. However, there is hope. Let us try to understand the others in the same way as we try to understand non-Catholics" (Msgr. Philips, prof. at Louvain).

    Conspiracy because they discussed tactics to remove and replace the doctrinal preparatory documents for others texts, according the words by Fr. Karl Rahner [04]: "Either the schema will be rejected, and then it will be necessary for the commission to prepare a new one; in that circumstance, we will have to bring to it a positive collaboration, not aiming too high, in order to arrive at least at a compromise. We should be the last to want to impose our ideas. — Or else, if the current schema is accepted as a basis for discussion, it will be necessary to take it article by article, line by line, word by word, in order to bring about profound changes. Even if we do not succeed in correcting everything, it will perhaps not be catastrophic. With this schema more than the second, there are possible arrangements. But let us determine wisely the precise points on which we must say: -‘Non possumus’. Consent to crawl, to swallow any affront, in order to wage absolute battle over some points. Prepare ammunition for that. Spread studies among the council Fathers, furnish them with materials, explanations" and "… But I wish with all my heart for the rejection of the schema. However, in the contrary case, we must not lose courage. …".

    While Fr. Daniélou added [04]: "I propose a method of working: on each essential point, form a small team of theologians or exegetes (of divergent views, but without calling on those with whom it is impossible to collaborate), who would compose a text and would submit it to a commission of bishops. This text could then be utilized, in one manner or another, according to circumstances. We must not have each person working independently, with no coordination" and Mgr. Volk [04]: "It is also essential that the bishops who are members of the Doctrinal Commission be in close contact with the theologians who are doing the work". Then [04]: "there followed a dialogue, in which I (Fr. Henry de Lubac) intervened with some others, on practical manner of organizing this type of work".

    Furthermore it is Fr. Daniélou who suggested [04]: "We could get together with some theologians this afternoon; for example, at the Gregorian, before the reception that is supposed to take place there. Between 4 and 5 P.M., we could try to organize the work". Finally, in the afternoon before the reception at the Gregorian [04]: "At 4 P.M., meeting of the theologians who had gotten together that morning, in a parlor of the Biblical Institute. Fr. Danielou, who had taken the initiative on this, proposed a division into small groups among which he would distribute the work. I (Fr. Henry de Lubac) am to specialize in the critical examination of the texts that I have seen drafted".

    This is a spirit of real conspiracy against the true attitude of the Council Fathers, as well as the attitude of the theological experts and advisers involved in a Council, isn't it? What fruit can such a thing produce at all? Because this group of bishops and theologians did not fully recognize their theological views in the preparatory theological documents, they disagreed and strived for the rejection of these documents. They had only one goal: to have their new theological views fully included in the final document.

    They accused the Holy Office of having too much influence on the work of the Preparatory Theological Commission, it would be too scholastic, too rigid and wrongly unwilling to listen to modern, recent theological developments [04]. Moreover they wrongly accused the Holy Office for changing the draft Preparatory Theological Documents [4] while these changes were required by the Central Preparatory Committee and carried out by an executive committee installed and supervised by represent members of this Central Preparatory Committee [08]. In doing so, they effectively denied the authority of the Holy Office as the executive Papal body with respect to the principal duties of Peter. Evidently, the Holy Office is not an Institution that can be said to be "their way of doing theology" or "their way of understanding faith", when it assesses the arguments behind new theories in accordance to the general principles of the Church: "never depart from the sacred heritage of truth received from the Church Fathers" and "in unity and in accordance with the doctrine taught by the Church Fathers". Especially, in this case the Preparatory Commission on Theology as well as Holy Office had acted in conformity to Pope St. John XXIII, when he announced the Council. Pope St. John XXIII, while referring to the actual "epoch of renewal’, he declared that "certain ancient forms of doctrinal affirmation and of wise provision of ecclesiastical discipline" should be remembered "through clarity of thought, through the solidarity of religious unity and through the living flame of Christian fervour" [06]. He, certainly, did not call for any ‘renewal to change the structure of the Body of Christ, the Faith, the Pastoral Care and the Liturgy as it took place after the Second Vatican Council, which is still continuing in the present times. He did not call for documents with ambiguities, but indeed with clarity of thought. He did not call for conspiracy and a war-like attitude but for a solidarity of religious unity and the living flame of Christian fervour!

    The encyclical Humani Generis

    From the end of the nineteenth century onwards, different schools of thought emerged from what Pope Pius XII called "New Theology". However, this movement itself referred to as "Resourcement Theology" because it claimed to aim at retrieving forgotten or neglected themes from Scripture, the Church Fathers, the liturgy and the works of classical theologians. This phenomenon included the biblical movement, the ecumenical movement, the liturgical renewal, the patristic renewal (especially advocated by those who launched the Sources Chrétiennes series) and the renewal of Thomism. This movement was strongly condemned in its extreme forms by Pius XII in his encyclical Humani Generis [07] in 1950.

    This encyclical reminded Catholic theologians of their tasks regarding the Church and faithful. Pope Pius XII, firstly, provides a general overview regarding the main errors of that time in HG 5 to 8:

    1. An unrestricted evolutionism which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, and which is used to eliminate all ideas of a personal God (HG 5);
    2. An existentialism that concerns itself only with the existence of individual things and neglects all consideration of their immutable essences (HG 6);
    3. A false historicism that only attributes value to the events of man’s life and overthrows the foundations of all truth and absolute law, both in philosophical speculations and in Christian dogmas (HG 7);
    4. An irenism that underestimates the ratio and disregards the Teaching Authority of the Church (HG 8).

    Then in HG 9 the task of the Catholic theologian is summarized [07]: "Now Catholic theologians and philosophers, whose grave duty it is to defend natural and supernatural truth and instil it in hearts of men, cannot afford to ignore or neglect these more or less erroneous opinions. Rather they must come to understand some theories well, both because diseases are not properly treated unless they are rightly diagnosed, and because sometimes even in these false theories a certain amount of truth is contained, and, finally, because these theories provoke more subtle discussion and evaluation of philosophical and theological truths".

    And HG 13 indicates the manner in which the new ideas are spread [07]: "These new opinions, whether they originate from a reprehensible desire of novelty or from a laudable motive, are not always advanced in the same degree, with equal clarity nor in the same terms, nor always with unanimous agreement of their authors. Theories that today are put forward rather covertly by some, not without cautions and distinctions, tomorrow are openly and without moderation proclaimed by others more audacious, causing scandal to many, especially among the young clergy and to detriment of ecclesiastical authority. Though they are usually more cautious in their published works they express themselves more openly in their writings intended for private circulation and in conferences and lectures. Moreover, these opinions are disseminated not only among members of the clergy and seminaries and religious institutions, but also among the laity, and especially among those who are engaged in teaching youth".

    By this encyclical, the Papal Magisterium of Pope Pius XII directed Catholic theologians to their main task as Catholic teachers. For any scientist, new theories are to be diagnosed carefully in the light of whole truth. Likewise, the supernatural truth of Faith sets fixed boundaries. Furthermore, scientific theologians have a grave responsibility to be cautious and clear. In publishing new ideas and new developments, they must seek to deepen the Faith in the public domain, not to confuse the faithful especially the young priests and seminarians.

    While the theologians attached to the New Theology oppose the Papal teaching contained in the encyclical Humani Generis, calling their movement ressourcement, suggest that the main purpose of the movement is to return to earlier sources of the undivided Church. And by that, they hide the real purpose behind their search for such sources. Such acts consequently inhibit the development of the Truth by deepening, while a renewed interpretation of the sources is used to consider a part of the past as a false development. Some harken back to the first Vatican Council as a false development that had led to a schism around the Pope’s infallibility (Anti-infallibism), others go back to the Council of Trent considering it as "on the whole inadequate" to heal Luther's schism [20] (Reformation and Conciliarism) or even to the pre-Constantine era (political liberals). Building on this foundation resulted in the New Theology. In doing this, they implicitly accuse the Church of being the cause of the evil of the schisms, and thus the Holy Spirit for improperly preserving the Church. Statements such as "without doubt vital members were removed along with diseased ones (as is often frankly stated by Protestant theologians today)" [20] without regard to the ever-present possibility of individual conversions from heresy among these so-called 'vital members' as stated by "This is not the place to discuss the loss of substance that accompanied this amputation. ... But we want to study here the internal Catholic development" [20] are allegations against the Church and the Holy Spirit.

    While some of the theologians present at the aforementioned private meeting were leaders of 'Resourcement Theology' (e.g. Yves Congar, Jean Daniélou, Henri de Lubac and Karl Rahner), all of them were also periti or expert advisers who worked closely together with the bishops in drafting the conciliar texts. Apparently the aforementioned statement by Mgsr. Philips, professor at Leuven, explains why Pope Pius XII's condemnation of the 'New Theology' was indeed correct. By recognizing the differences in the way the 'New Theology' understands the Faith from the Holy See, he actually affirms that the way the 'New Theology' practices its theology does indeed lead to New Faith.


    The aforementioned private meeting as well as the several other private meetings as mentioned the one above organized by Mgr. Volk and Father Karl Rahner [21] and later continued at the Belgian House clearly indicates how determined those involved were to impose their theological views onto the Council. That these meetings had a great influence on the Council can be observed by how the suggestion that was put forward in this closed meeting of November 18th, 1962, by Mgr. Garonne to have the preparatory document De Fontibus Revelationis rewritten by a joint commission, was ordered three days later by Pope St. John XXII himself. This indicates their influential connections of this group with Cardinals advising the Holy Father.

    However, contrary to the intent behind the call by this group, Pope John XXIII explicitly stated this rewriting in order to shorten it and to make the general principles defined by Trent and Vatican I stand out better [08]: "But the task of this commission should be to revise, shorten and adapt the scheme, but to adhere to the more general principles. Moreover, everyone knows that the same doctrine was presented by the Tridentine Council and Vatican I". Since the outcome eventually led to a personal intervention by Pope St. Paul VI to correct the subject about the two sources of Revelation, it is clear that this joint commission has not adhered to the mandate imposed by Pope St. John XXIII.

    Furthermore, as a result of the measures taken by Pope St. John XXIII to restrain the effects of the Council’s hijack [04], none of the distinct groups had an absolute majority within the Council Commissions, that prepared the text proposals of the Documents. This means that all parties were forced to go for a compromise. In fact, this situation would work well if all parties involved were of good will and adhered to the basic rule of conduct. That is, everyone would be graciously and humbly collaborating with the intention of the Holy Spirit in searching the Truth. Therefore, while the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth as well as of Love the intention of the Holy Spirit never can contradict the Truth or conduct a war against the Church. This, then, is the foundation of the general hermeneutics of the Church, as clearly stated by Pope St. John XXIII in his Opening Address : "Never depart from the sacred heritage of truth received from the Church Fathers" and "in unity and in accord with the teachings of the Church Fathers". Such an attitude with a persuasiveness of true and honest arguments that do not contradict the teachings of the Church Fathers would have produced clear and unambiguous documents even by implementing the true elements of the recently developed theological conceptions according to the encyclical Humani Generis (HG13) [07].

    However, the opposite has happened as seen above the rebellious spirit was on war. As shown by the above mentioned private meeting of November 18th, 1962, this group, attached to the New Theology, was convinced about their own superiority of "their way of understanding the faith". But to get their text proposals in the documents they had to convince the majority of the Council Fathers by hiding their true ideas, as mentioned by the words of Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx: "We will express it diplomatically, but after the Council we will draw implicit conclusions"

    And since in fact both, ambiguity and silence, can serve this purpose, we see these deliberatively reflected in the various Council documents. By this, it is easily to understand that all ambiguities can systematically be distinct. On the one hand by the subjects of the ‘resourcement’ as determined by the Encyclical Humani Generis[07]:

    1. unrestricted evolutionism;
    2. existentialism that concerns itself only with the existence of individual things;
    3. false historicism;
    4. irenism which overestimates the power of reason while disregarding the Teaching Authority of the Church.

    And on the other hand by the methods used to hide their true intentions behind their text-proposals. These are as follows:

    1. Introducing 'embryonal' ambiguities to provide any risk for recognition;
    2. One-sided silencing the Truth;
    3. Introducing ambiguous expressions or contradictory text phrases as a compromise if the ‘norm’ of ‘embryonal’ ambiguities or the one-sided silencing were recognized;

    Here the driving motivation behind this so-called ‘resourcement’ is the quest for the 'undivided Church' to restore the various schisms and the relationship with the world. This latter one, in particular, has been so seriously disrupted over the past two centuries. In addition, the argument most used by them is that of ecumenism by interfaith debates which even goes further to interreligious debates. Hereto, this movement suggests that bridging the gap with the schisms, other religions and the world would be the necessary pastoral goal of the Church of today and that this should be done with common sense by looking for the formulas and practices prior to such specific schisms. In doing so, they do not take into account the growth of such formulations over time, so that the earlier formulations are less deep than after a conviction of such heresy. As a result, despite the various condemnations, this endeavor is implicitly strongly inspired by the anti-Infallibilism, Reformation, Conciliarism and political liberalism that support the modern idea of democracy. However, such an endeavor carries a high risk of implicitly blaming the Church and thus the Holy Spirit for making false doctrinal decisions and condemnations. And so this movement sought a common past by listening to the "undivided Church" to rebuild the Church to be acceptable to the schismatics, or as one might say today: “Build the Church Back Better”. In this context, this movement has “Built the Liturgy Back Better" to replace the Sacred Liturgy of the Church with a form the schismatics can understand in their own way too. Isn’t this a false manner of ecumenism.


    Consequently, the use of such methods to hide their true intentions behind their text proposals, is the ultimate proof that this movement were indeed closely connected with a false pastorate, a false ecumenism and a strive to change the Church Structure falsely.

    Table 1 provides a summary by means of a few examples how ambiguous texts can be traced from their origin as mentioned by the Encyclical Humani Generis.

    Obviously these few examples can indeed be traced to subjects concerning the Encyclical Humani Generis. Such as the unrestricted evolutionism that denies the Origin Sin as well as irenism that proposes to decrease the gap between the Church and the other Christian denominations, especially those of the Reformation and the gap between the Church and the World as well as, the gap between the Church and non-Christian religions.

    Table 1; summary of tracing some ambiguities

    Furthermore, as a consequence of the already mentioned statement [04]: "There are, between the two groups that confront each other now, a divergence, not only in their way of doing theology, but in their way of understanding the faith" (Msgr. Philips, prof. at Louvain), it must be clear to any objective observer that the implicit conclusions of the diplomatically expressed [03] ambiguities as well as the one-sided silencing of the Doctrine will change Faith. And indeed, this has factually been confirmed by the Hermeneutic of Reform, by both forms, the extreme form of break as well as the moderated form of continuity. The fact that only one specific form of the latter can be explained as in accordance to the Hermeneutic of the Church shows the ambiguous character of the use of the term Hermeneutic of the Reform in Continuity. In general both types of the Hermeneutic of Reform are in very contrast to the Hermeneutic of the Church as formulated by Pope St. John XXIII "Never depart from the sacred heritage of truth received from the Church Fathers" and "in unity and in accord with the teachings of the Church Fathers". Here the orthodoxy is seeking the deepening of Faith only.

    Any depart from the "sacred heritage of Truth received from the Church Fathers" as well as from the "unity and accordance with the teachings of the Church Fathers" is creating a new and another faith. Acting as such is lacking any gracious and humble collaboration with the intention of the Holy Spirit: "By their fruits you will know them" (Matt. 7, 15-16).



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