The White Lily Blog

Trabbic: ‘Vatican II does not Contradict Ottaviani on the Matter of Church and State.’ No, Really!


So said Crisis magazine when it published a Vatican II apologia by Dr. Joseph Trabbic, “Vatican II Does Not Contradict Ottaviani on the Matter of Church and State” (his doctorate is from Fordham, 2008). Nothing to see here, folks, just move on! This is the tiresome refrain from those who have accommodated themselves to the post-council Church. A lot of the time they’re making their living from it.

Let’s look a little deeper to see if Vatican II doesn’t contradict Ottaviani. The location of the publication Trabbic uses to anchor his statements about what Ottaviani wrote is here (it’s short enough, not inaccessible to a layperson) and as you will see, Dr. Trabbic has taken bits of it to patch together a false conclusion. Trabbic breaks Ottaviani down into three theses, the first of which he renders,

With respect to the first thesis—according to which the state should publicly profess the Catholic faith—there is nothing in the Council documents that denies this. In Gaudium et spes §76 it is noted that “[t]he Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified in any way with the political community nor bound to any political system” and that “the Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other.” This distinction between the Church and state, however, does not exclude their working together. Thus, the Council fathers add that “[t]he more that both foster sounder cooperation between themselves with due consideration for the circumstances of time and place, the more effective will their service be exercised for the good of all.” As we saw earlier, Ottaviani too thinks that the proper spheres of Church and state must be distinguished. And he too, like the Council, does not see this as at all excluding cooperation between them.

But the limiters ‘autonomous’ and ‘independent’ as used by Ottaviani and other traditional theologians refer to the differing mission of Church and state each within the Catholic country, not between the Catholic Church and a secular state. There can be no unity, no détente  between the Church and the secular state because (as Ottaviani says)

Religion and morality in their intimate action constitute and indivisible whole. The moral order, the commandments of God, are equally valid throughout the entire field of human activity. There is no exception. And as far as these reach out, there extends also the mission of the Church, and therefore also the word of the priest, his teaching, his admonitions and his counsels to the faithful confided to his care. The Catholic Church will never let itself be shut up within the four walls of the temple. The separation between religion and life, between the Church and the world, is contrary to the Christian and Catholic idea.

The cooperation between such a state and the Church can only be, in this emphatic view, the restoration of justice toward God. Because of this necessity, Ottaviani writes, it is wrong to hold to any of these errors which are common to modernism:

(1) The State, properly speaking, cannot perform an act of religion. (The State is a mere symbol or a group of institutions.)
(2) “An immediate illation from the order of ethical and theological truth to the order of constitutional law is, in principle, dialectically inadmissible.” That is, the State’s obligation to worship God can never enter into the constitutional sphere.
(3) Finally, even for a State composed of Catholics, there is no obligation to profess the Catholic religion. As far as the obligation to protect is concerned, this does not become operative except in determined circumstances, and precisely when the freedom of the Church cannot otherwise be guaranteed.

It is illogical of Dr. Trabbic to imagine the Church and the secular state could get around Ottaviani’s objection to the idea that the state has no obligation to profess the Catholic religion, for as Ottaviani forcefully says, Catholicism must permeate the entire field of human activity in a nation. No exceptions. If a state is not Catholic, then the recourse is to convert it, not abandon the necessity.

Nor was Ottaviani speaking of the past, a medieval past so distant we could not possibly consider his comments to apply to our circumstances; he was speaking of modern times, modern solutions, in this case solutions to problems caused by the American example of secularism but spread across the globe, especially after World War II:

Against the moral and religious agnosticism of the State and of its laws, Pius XII held up the concept of the Christian State in his august letter of Oct. 19, 1945, for the nineteenth Social Week of the Italian Catholics, in which, precisely, the problem of the new constitution was to be studied.

Reflecting well on the evil consequences that such a constitution abandoning the “corner stone” of the Christian concept of life, and attempting to base itself on moral and religious agnosticism, would bring into the heart of society and into its transient history, every Catholic will easily understand how the question which before every other, ought now to attract his attention and stir up his activity, is that of assuring for this and for future generations the benefit of a fundamental law of the State which is not opposed to sound religious and moral principles, but which rather draws vigorous inspiration from them and proclaims and wisely pursues their lofty purposes.[9]

Furthermore, in the text referenced by Trabbic, Ottaviani quotes Leo XIII In condemning the religious indifferentism of the State in the encyclical Immortale Dei, saying that Pope Leo makes it clear that rulers cannot “choose whatever they wish from different categories” but rather that all states are obliged to follow, in the matter of divine worship, those laws and those means by which God Himself has shown that He Wills to be honored, “quo coli se Deus ipse demonstravit velle.”[11] And in the encyclical Libertas, Ottaviani says that Pope Leo XIII continues, appeals to justice and to reason: “Justice and reason forbid a state to be atheistic or to be what comes to the same thing as being atheistic, to have the same attitude towards various, so-called ‘religious’ and indifferently to grant the same rights to all of them.”[12]

It is impossible to reconcile these words with the teachings of Vatican II. As Archbishop Lefebvre wrote in They Have Uncrowned Him (173 in the Angelus edition), the Council “exhibits this indifferentism or a tendency in this direction” by “exalting the individual conscience, the spiritual values, and the value for salvation of the other religions (Nostra aetate, n.2; Unitatis redintegratio, n.3; Dignitatis humanae, n.4).” What do those passages say? Nostra aetate, after praising several false religions for their various marvelous insights, says “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” Unitatis redintegratio says, “The separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.” Dignitatis humanae says, among other modernistic statements regarding ‘freedom of conscience’ says, “The social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense.”

How can any of these quotes be said to agree with Ottaviani’s statement that reason forbids us to have the same attitude towards various, so-called religions and indifferently to grant the same rights to all of them”?

Dr. Trabbic’s naive comment that the Council could not have contradicted tradition because the bishops themselves at the very beginning of Dignitatis humanae declared that in this document the Council “leaves untouched traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” (§1). Did they, now? In 2015, after so many theologians have written on the peculiar language of Vatican II, to say this about the Council is truly a joke. The whole world knows the Council was above all “a language event” that changed the traditional meanings of the Faith in subtle ways borrowed from the tools of advertising, by insinuation, not by argument.  In most cases, before the novelty in the teaching was introduced, the traditional position was affirmed. It was mere lip service, given, applauded, and then contradicted.

In the question of the language of the sacraments, for example, Vatican II’s documents said, 2) “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #36, 1). And then comes this next sentence: “2. But since the use of the Mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended.”  That was the door left ajar for accomplices waiting in the alley. The use of the ‘Mother tongue’ (happy phrase! so poetic!) predictably was found to be ‘advantageous’ in absolutely everything.  Latin is now gone from the general life of the Church; for example, it will not be used at the upcoming family synod, and clerical gatherings are entrenched in national, linguistic enclaves that are more easily manipulated and deceived, not to mention prohibitively expensive to manage, with the pricey requisite manpower and technology for translation. Given the widespread understanding of the Council’s linguistic trickery involved regarding Latin, even in Crisis magazine, it is really strange that Dr. Trabbic seems to believe, ‘they said they wouldn’t violate tradition, so it must be so. Amen.’ In spite of attempts to say it was a mischievous ‘spirit’ that distorted the intention of the Council fathers to merely update the furnishings a little, any fifth grader knows how a little phrase like “unless it’s advantageous” can be used to open the cookie jar. Even among modernists, the trouble caused by the switch from universal Latin to a multiplicity of vernaculars is not unremarked, as in this link documenting violence resulting from language disputes. And it may no longer be ignored that linguistic disunity is fueling theological disunity, as in the case of Germany’s defiance of traditional teaching on divorce and communion.The ‘decisions of the national church’ seems so much better, so much more normal and inevitable, than the ‘decisions of heretics.’

Although Dr. Trabbic feels it may be a bit ‘pointless’ now to muse on the right relationship between Church and state, due to the broken relationship that we have now at the end of the rollout of the American heresy, it most certainly is not pointless to the poor who are bearing the social brunt of the Council’s pretexts. They have no champion now to see to their fragile rights, to protest their exploitation with solutions that bite, with support of laws to protect them. Discussing the heresy of Vatican II is only pointless to the comfortable.

On the contrary, now is the time to began the great evangelization movement to convert people to the Catholic church so that we are in a majority in this country, and again in those countries where we once enjoyed both majorities and Catholic states, and can use both the rules of the Church and the rules of democracy to help us. It will be necessary to form a political party whose energizing platform puts God in our society in a formal way, as Hungary as done. This may at first mean a coalition of fundamentalists such as Hungary has forged, in our case between evangelicals, Muslims, traditional Jewish sects, and Catholics. It would mean being clear up front that our eventual goal is the Catholic state and that it is Catholic principles that will prevail regarding life and sexuality, in the midst of our toleration of the religious errors of our allies. However, Muslim individuals have addressed Rome on their willingness to support traditional Catholic political initiatives (while Rome answers back that Islam must modernize, to their rage). But we will never get that done, we will never get anything done to help us in our agony, we will not even pause our accelerated slide into oblivion so long as we hold tight to Vatican II. The Council feeds us a spiritual toxin. It paralyzes us before the executioners come. Yes, Vatican II does contradict Ottaviani on the matter of Church and State, and the Council was wrong, not Ottavini, not all the popes speaking before him. We cannot cooperate either with secularism or with religious freedom, we must work toward a nation which gives God the honor his divinity demands. Until that is done, let’s just face it: it’s war and let us prepare ourselves for battle. Dr. Trabbic has written his nonsensical apologia at a time when secularism has revealed its truly savage face and its champion, modernism, has emptied our churches, our seminaries, our families, and our purses.

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