Listers, if the discussion of Vatican II regarding the continuity of Sacred Tradition is ever to come to full force the spectre that has become Vatican II must be addressed - most necessarily in first distinguishing what Vatican II said and what people think Vatican II said. Amongst the host of legitimate problems, the post-Vatican II Church abandoned St. Thomas Aquinas. Entire Thomistic libraries were recovered from the garbage dumpsters outside Catholic universities and the popular malformed lens of Karl Rahner interpreted the entirety of Sacred Tradition afresh.1 Though Vatican II suffers its own vagaries, the insufferable ”Spirit of Vatican II” has become a skeleton key of liberals, i.e., heretics, to unlock whatever thinly dissembled modernist errors they wish into the Church.
Often times one will hear when St. Thomas Aquinas is brought into the conversation that Vatican II did away with that old medievalist and the Church’s supposed peace with modernity has ushered in new Catholic manners of thinking. Again, all actual problems with the text of Vatican II aside, it did no such thing. Though it lacks the assiduousness and acumen of previous Church documents, the Council still affirms St. Thomas’ role as the mind that rules Catholic academia like a king.
For a collection of excellent exhortations from previous Vicars of Christ to study the beloved Dumb Ox, please read “The Sun that Warms the World: 10 Papal Comments on St. Thomas Aquinas” and “Patrimony of Wisdom: 6 Quotes of St. Pius X’s Exhortation to Study St. Thomas Aquinas.” The following quotes are taken from the aforementioned lists:
“We therefore desired that all teachers of philosophy and sacred theology should be warned that if they deviated so much as a step, in metaphysics especially, from Aquinas, they exposed themselves to grave risk.” - St. Pis X
“He (Thomas Aquinas) enlightened the Church more than all the other Doctors together; a man can derive more profit from his books in one year than from a lifetime spent in pondering the philosophy of others” (Consistorial address of 1318). - Pope John XXII
“But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.” - Pope Leo XIII
“But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.” - Ibid.
The following list is taken directly from the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding Aquinas and Vatican II.2
VATICAN II and POST-VATICAN II DOCUMENTS On St. Thomas Aquinas
1. Optatam Totius
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Optatam Totius decree n. 16: “[…]Next, in order that they may shed light on the mysteries of salvation as completely as possible, the students should learn to penetrate them more deeply with the help of speculation, under the guidance of St. Thomas, and to perceive their interconnections”.
2. Gravissimum Educationis
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Gravissimum Educationis declaration n. 10: “[…]The Church is concerned also with schools of a higher level, especially colleges and universities. In those schools dependent on her she intends that by their very constitution individual subjects be pursued according to their own principles, method, and liberty of scientific inquiry, in such a way that an ever deeper understanding in these fields may be obtained and that, as questions that are new and current are raised and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the Church and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas (Cf. Paul VI’s allocution to the International Thomistic Congress, Sept. 10, 1965: L’Osservatore Romano, Sept. 13-14, 1965), there may be a deeper realization of the harmony of faith and science”.
3. Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis
Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis (1970), n. 86: “[…]Uphold St Thomas Aquinas as one of the highest teachers of the Church”.
4. Apostolic Letter Lumen Ecclesiae
Pope Paul VI 5 December 1975
“Now, since it would be too lengthy to list all the attestations of the great veneration of the Church and of the Pontiffs for St Thomas, here we would just like to recall that towards the end of the last century - precisely when the consequences of rupturing the equilibrium between reason and faith were more evident - they once again proposed his example and his magisterium as positive factors for the unity of religious faith, culture, civil life, to be implemented in new ways in compliance with the new times.”
“The Apostolic See invited and encouraged an authentic revisitation of Thomistic studies. Our Predecessors, starting with Leo XIII and for the strong impulse he gave with the Encyclical Aeterni Patris, recommended love for the study and teachings of St Thomas, to manifest the consonance of his doctrine with divine revelation, the harmony between faith and reason, preserving their respective rights; the fact that the prestige recognised to his doctrine, far from suppressing emulation in research, stimulates it rather and guides it confidently.”
“Moreover, the Church underlined her preference for the doctrine of St Thomas, proclaiming that it is its own […] and to encourage it on the basis of its multisecular experience. Even today the Angelic Doctor and the study of his doctrine are, by law, the cornerstone of the theological formation of those who are called to the role of confirming and comforting their brothers in the faith.”
Post Vatican II Rahnarian Theology: To wit, Karl Rahner’s theology attempted to retain the jargon of St. Thomas Aquinas while instituting a Kantian form of metaphysics. It is unclear if Rahner knew the heretical ends to which his work would lead others. His bifurcated system of metaphysics allowed things to be interpreted as a realty of symbols and then a reality of the mysterious and unknowable truth behind them. In essence, this paved the way for heresies like Roger Haight’s Jesus Symbol of God and led to a widespread belief that the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church was simply one set of symbols expressing the greater reality of existence. The movement did much to try and discredit St. Thomas and thwart thomistic studies as the orthodoxy of St. Thomas Aquinas’ texts would only dispute and disprove their heretical and protestant theologies. ↩︎