30 May 2018

Obeying the Council: the importance of submission to Councils

This ironic, but highly amusing and pointed essay was written in 2015. Read it, laugh, but take it to heart!

From Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment

It is, I hope we would all agree, extremely important that the Council, like all Ecumenical Councils, should be treated with respect and its wishes put into effect.

This is why I am disturbed that some Jews, and some Moslems, are allowed to go around without being distinctively dressed so that it can be seen who is Jewish, who is Moslem, who is Christian. I also have a suspicion that some Jews may even go outside their homes during the Christian Sacred Triduum. This is clearly both illegal and disgraceful, since it is explicitly forbidden by the Council, and with great emphasis.

And, moreover, the SSPX is to blame for not rigorously demanding, in season and out of season, that Jews and Moslems should always wear their distinctive dress.  I cannot recall a single SSPX document which adequately emphasises this important decree of the Council. Frankly, this raises difficult questions about the SSPX itself. Since it so manifestly treats important enactments of the Council with apparent indifference, it is important that it should be denied faculties, and kept at arm's length, until it unambiguously undertakes to do all it can to embrace and enforce the Conciliar decrees regarding Jewish and Moslem dress, down the the last comma, the last detail.  Frankly, I blame Bishop Fellay for this indiscipline. He is a man who, to my knowledge, has never spoken loudly and publicly enough about the importance of the distinctive dress which should be worn by Jews and Moslems. Can you show me one single statement of his about the need for all Moslem women, as the Conciliar Canon implies, to wear the hijab? No group can truly expect to be in good standing unless its submission to the Council, as to all the Church's Ecumenical Councils, is total, unequivocal, and ex animo.

It is not as though the Council to which I am today referring [Lateran IV (vide Canonem LXXXIX); it closed on November 30 1215] is some minor Council. Because of the large numbers of bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs which attended it, it was sometimes called The Great Council. It promulgated the Dogma of Transubstantiation. Could any Council be more important than Lateran IV?

I hope nobody, on the thread, will dare to speak slightingly about the duty of all Catholics to accept without question every jot and tittle of Lateran IV, as of every other Council. Moreover, its Spirit, easily collected and inferred from its canons about the exclusion of Jews from public life and the iniquity of their usurious behaviour, not to mention the problems of miscegenation, is also something which it is the duty of all Catholics to accept with enthusiasm. Isn't it? You know I'm right.


We live in a dangerous world, in which some people tend to be or pretend to be depressingly blind to literary genre. I hope no reader of this blog is so blind as to fail to detect my irony all through the above piece. I neither like nor subscribe to the teaching of Lateran IV about the Jews as being suitable to our time, nor do I condemn the SSPX for being lukewarm about that teaching. My view on Councils, prescinding from those Conciliar decrees (with attached anathemas) which strictly define dogma, is that their teachings and edicts, even if appropriate to the time of the Council itself, which I believe one is at liberty to doubt, gradually merge into the quiet background noise of the life of the Church. I have no doubt that this applies to Lateran Canon 89 as much as it does to Vatican II Dignitatis humanae. But both of these were completely 'valid' Ecumenical Councils; a truth which, I believe, no Catholic is allowed to question. I also believe that no Catholic should read the non-dogmatic texts of any Council, or of any Roman Pontiff, without applying a contextualising nuance. Catholics are not fundamentalists. Councils, and popes, when not defining dogma, can, quite simply, be wrong. Especially fifty or more years after their time.

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