Fifty years ago this week, Roman Catholicism convened its most recent (still) ecumenical council, now known as the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II. Beginning in October 1962 it would conclude at the end of 1965. Fifty years later, Vatican II remains the official position of the Roman Catholic Church.
Over at the Desiring God blog, David Mathis writes a helpful article on this 50th anniversary. One of the things he does is to quote Dr Lorraine Boettner, a conservative Protestant theologian who would later write his own book, Roman Catholicism. He said Vatican II
repeated the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church, although it did recognize that other churches contain some elements of truth. . . . Pope John XXIII, who called the first session, and Pope Paul VI, who presided over the later sessions (as well as several prominent cardinals and theologians), took care to emphasize that no changes would be made in the doctrinal structure of the Church. However, Pope Paul did promulgate one new doctrine, which asserts that “Mary is the Mother of the Church.” The primary purpose of the Council was to update the liturgy and administrative practices and so to make the Church more efficient and more acceptable to the 20th century world.
Note the added italics: “no changes . . . in the doctrinal structure of the Church.” Boettner continues,
On previous occasions, Rome has changed her tactics when old methods became ineffective, but she has never changed her nature. In any religious organization, doctrine is the most basic and important part of its structure, since what people believe determines what they do. An official document, “The Constitution on the Church” prepared by the Council and approved by the Pope, reaffirms basic Catholic doctrine precisely as it stood before the Council met. . . . .
[I]f the Roman Catholic Church were reformed according to scripture, it would have to be abandoned. But the gross errors concerning salvation still remain. Moreover, the Council did nothing toward removing the more than 100 anathemas or curses pronounced by the Council of Trent on the Protestant churches and belief.
Boettner concluded that Vatican II
makes it abundantly clear that Rome has no intention of revising any of her basic doctrine, but only of updating her methods and techniques for more efficient administration and to present a more attractive appearance. This is designed to make it easier for the Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant churches to return to her fold. There is no indication that she has any intentions of entering into genuine give-and-take church unity negotiations. Her purpose is not union, but absorption. Church union with Rome is strictly a one-way street. The age-old danger that Protestantism has faced from the Roman Church has not diminished; in fact, it may well have increased. For through this less offensive posture and this superficial ecumenicism, Rome is much better situated to carry out her program of eliminating opposition and moving into a position of world dominance. An infallible church simply cannot repent.
Mathias summarizes these qutes: Strong words, but a helpful perspective from a thoughtful evangelical contemporary of the council. Whether you consider Boettner’s concerns to be warranted or overstated, they should give today’s evangelicals some pause about being too optimistic about what happened in the reforms of Vatican II.
I encourage you to look at the whole article, in which Mathis adds a few of the positive results of the event, and has some suggestions on how we might pray over all these things.
Pastor David Bissett