Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why The Council of Trent is Still the Preeminent Council of the Church

We hear day in and day out ad-nauseum about the Second Vatican Council. Bishops, priests and theologians bore us to tears harping on the same tiresome documents of Vatican II acting as if the Church started with the Second Vatican Council. Any Catholic who has studied the Church's theology and history ought to know that the documents of Vatican II hardly scratch the surface of our faith, and often times are written so poorly that they obscure the faith. The pastoral Council so called by Pope John XXIII himself brought nothing new in terms of theology and made no canonical pronouncements as the Councils before it had done. That is why we must must look back to the documents and Councils before Vatican II if we are to be fully immersed in our faith.

Although it is important to read and understand the First Vatican Council, I would argue that the preeminent Council for our time is still the Council of Trent. Trent is the most important Council the Church has had in over 500 years. The Council defined many dogmas that were under attack by the Protestant heretics. Thus what Trent defined solemnly is to be believed by every faithful Catholic, and nothing that goes against any of its canons or definitions can be accepted as orthodox. Trent defined many of the Church's theological doctrines very specifically including Transubstantiation, Justification, and all of the Sacraments.

This Council is also important for its Thomistic underpinning which its definitions and canons were built upon. Many modern theologians have claimed that the Church has never favored one particular theological "school" but this is a myth. The Church has favored the theological principles of St Thomas Aquinas both formally and informally in papal documents, Catechisms and in its definitions in general Councils. This is true of Trent. Romanus Cessario, OP writes in his recent work ‘The Achievement of Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters’, “… as the presence of Thomists in influential positions at the Council of Trent suggests, anyone who wanted to exegete the main dogmatic definitions contained in the Decrees of the Council would have had to consult Aquinas, especially his Summa theologiae.”

As we know all of the popes for almost 100 years before the Second Vatican Council warned the Church that if the teaching of Thomas was dispensed with in the seminaries, the Church would fall into ruin. After Vatican II the modernist theologians were given pride of place. They have obscured the clear teachings of Thomas with their theological fantasies based in the modern crippled philosophies of Hegel, Kant, Heidegger and others. If we are to reorient ourselves back to reality and pull our gaze away from the fantasy-land of modernism, we must look back to Trent. Since Trent's definitions are rooted in Thomas, it is a good place to start. The time has come to stop this charade of presenting the few documents of Vatican II as the "be all, end all" expressions of our faith. The Council of Trent and the Catechism of Trent is where you will find the heart of Catholic teaching and it would do the Church well for theologians, priests, bishops and laity to start delving back into its rich presentation of our faith.

The Council of Trent

The Catechism of the Council of Trent

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