Many mistakenly seem to think that since Vatican II was “pastoral” it is therefore ignorable, unnecessary, unimportant, not Ecumenical. In 1972 St John Paul II while a Cardinal wrote “The [Second Vatican] Council, which, as an act of the supreme magisterium, sets out to show our age the way leading to the fulfilment of God’s word in the Church.” Satan wants Vatican II ignored and rejected by the faithful. Here is why “pastoral” is not ignorable but rather, as St John Paul II said, is “incumbent on all.”
Posted in honor of St John Paul II’s birthday: May 18th.
In his book Vatican II The Crisis and Promise, Alan Schreck addresses the nature of a “pastoral” Council:
The idea that the Council was “pastoral” came from the one who called it: Pope St John XXIII. What did he mean by this? To put his idea of “pastoral” in context, we must note that toward the beginning of the speech opening the Council he said: “The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.”
As his speech went on, St John XXIII explained that teaching Christian doctrine more efficaciously did not mean a discussion or repetition of fundamental doctrines of the church that are “well known and familiar to all.” Rather he calls for “a step forward” in expounding and penetrating this doctrine, through the “methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration…everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.”
The essential core of Vatican II teachings are doctrine: biblical doctrines, doctrines that have unfolded in Sacred Tradition, doctrines about human beings, individually and in society, and doctrines about God and his works, particularly the Church. This is why the Extraordinary Synod of 1985 stated, “It is not licit to separate the pastoral character from the doctrinal vigor of the documents.” (End Alan Schreck quotes)
In Crossing the Threshold of Hope St John Paul II said “Truth in fact, cannot be confined. Truth is for one and for all. And if this truth comes about through love (cf Eph 4:15) then it becomes even more universal. This was the style of the Second Vatican Council and the spirit in which it took place.”
The rest of this writing comes from the 1972 book Sources of Renewal The Implementation of Vatican II by Karol Wojtya (St John Paul II)
The [Second Vatican] Council, which, as an act of the supreme magisterium, sets out to show our age the way leading to the fulfilment of God’s word in the Church
John XXII, who called the Council, and likewise his Successor and the assembled Father, emphasized many times that the Council was above all a ‘pastoral’ one and that its work should be directed and decision taken from that point of view.
It may be said that every Council in the Church’s history has been a pastoral one, if only because the assembled bishops, und the Pope’s guidance, are pastors of the Church. At the same time every Council is an act of the supreme magisterium of the Church.
On the one hand doctrinal acts of the magisterium have a pastoral sense, while on the other hand pastoral acts have a doctrinal significance, deeply rooted as they are in faith and morals. These pastoral acts contain the doctrine that the Church proclaims; they often make it clearer and more precise, striving incessantly to achieve the fullness of the divine truth (cf John 16:13).
If we study the Conciliar magisterium as a whole, we find that the Pastors of the Church were not so much concerned to answer questions like ‘What should men believe?’, ‘What is the real meaning of this or that truth of faith?’ and so on, but rather to answer the more complex question: ‘What does it mean to be a believer, a Catholic and a member of the Church?’ They endeavored to answer this question in the broad context of today’s world, as indeed the complexity of the question itself requires.
A ‘purely’ doctrinal Council would have concentrated on defining the precise meaning of the truths of faith, whereas a pastoral Council proclaims, recalls or clarities truths for the primary purpose of giving Christians a life-style, a way of thinking and acting. In our efforts to put the Council into practice, this is the style we must keep before our minds. In the present study, designed to help towards the realization of Vatican II, we shat concentrate on the consciousness of Christians and the attitudes they should acquire. These attitudes, spring from a well-formed Christian conscience, can in a sense be regarded as true proof of the realization of the Council. This is the direction which should be followed by all pastoral action, the lay apostolate and the whole of the Church’s activity.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, the [Second Vatican] Council outlines that essential form of ecumenical attitude to be developed as part of the general enrichment of faith which is incumbent on all in their various degrees.