Thoughts on Lumen Gentium
One thing that my readers should realize is that I am an ex-seminarian for the SSPX. (I'm an American, but I did my two years of seminary in La Reja, Argentina.) So I am not very happy with the Pope or the state of the Catholic Church as it is now. However, a lot of exposure to Eastern Orthodoxy and the Eastern rites in the Catholic Church has made me much more open than I was in my more hardened "Lefebvrist" days. (Although I still consider Lefebvre to be a saint, so for me, "Lefebvrist" is still a badge of honor, even if I don't agree with their position fully.)
So finally I have hunkered down and am beginning to read some Vatican II documents all the way through. [The only one I have done this for is Sancrosanctum Concilium.... (spit on the floor) what a wretched and myopic document!!!] So I am reading Lumen Gentium now.
Overall, I like the document. Having had a lot of exposure to the Fathers of the Church, I really can see their influence in the minds of the Council Fathers. The task of the document is indeed admirable: to break out of the strictly "Baltimore Catechism" approach to Catholicism and present a more broader and integral idea of what the Church is. Lumen Gentium, I will conceed, tries to get back to basics, leaving behind a lot of Counter-Reformation polemics that obsessed Catholicism to that time. Going back to basics consists in going back to the Scriptures, the Fathers, and the early Doctors. I am completely sympathetic to this approach. To a great extent, that is the approach of this blog.
However, (and this is a big "however"), there is still that great problem of Chapter 2, Art. 15:
15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(16*) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.
Sorry Charlie, but this is not the mind of the traditional Church. Heresy and schism are not "partial unions" to the Church of Christ: they are separation from God, simply put. You don't even have to read the great Fathers of the Church (St. Basil, St. Augustine, etc.) to realize this; this was even true for simple monks, like Abba Agathon from the Apothegmata Patrum. Over and over again, the old monks used to say: "Don't talk to heretics."
But this paragraph also has a flawed metaphysics behind it as well: evil per se does not exist. Evil exists to the extent that there is a lack of good; it is not something complete in itself, but something that is deficient in something that is good. Thus, for "good" Pope John to want to focus on "what unites us rather than on what divides us", is like a physician focusing on the nice head of hair his terminal cancer patient still has. Good must still be to some extent in evil simply because evil does not stand by itself. Therefore, if heretics have the Bible, that doesn't make them good Christians (or even partially good Christians). It just means that they have been all the more deceived.
Please do not get me wrong. I don't believe all of you non-Catholics reading this are going to Hell. If that were the case, I as a confused Catholic would be going with you. There have been times in my life, as a Catholic, that I spent more times in Orthodox Churches than I did in Catholic Churches. But it is profoundly disturbing to me that we can play so fast and loose with the limits of the Church while we read that the Fathers of the Church did no such thing. For me, there has to be a better way than this "you're okay, I'm okay" post-Vatican II clap-trap. And that is what I am trying to grope my way towards, in the dark and blindly.