|First of all, it is not pointless to recall that the pastoral motivation of the Council does not mean that it was not doctrinal – since all pastoral activity is necessarily based on doctrine.|
The Second Vatican Council did not define any dogma, in the sense that it proposed no doctrine with a definitive act. However, even if the Magisterium proposes a teaching without directly invoking the charism of infallibility, it does not follow that such a teaching is therefore to be considered "fallible" - in the sense that what is proposed is somehow a “provisional doctrine” or just an “authoritative opinion”. Every authentic expression of the Magisterium must be received for what it truly is: a teaching given by Pastors who, in the apostolic succession, speak with the “charism of truth” (Dei Verbum, n. 8), “endowed with the authority of Christ” (Lumen Gentium, n. 25), “and by the light of the Holy Spirit” (ibid.).
This charism, this authority and this light were certainly present at the Second Vatican Council; to deny this to the entire episcopate gathered to teach the universal Church cum Petro and sub Petro, would be to deny something of the very essence of the Church (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 24 June 1973, nn. 2-5).
|naturally require the assent of theological faith, not because they were taught by this Council but because they have already been taught infallibly as such by the Church...|
|The Council’s other doctrinal teachings require of the faithful a degree of assent called “religious submission of will and intellect”. Precisely because it is “religious” assent, such assent is not based purely on rational motives. This kind of adherence does not take the form of an act of faith. Rather, it is an act of obedience that is not merely disciplinary, but is well-rooted in our confidence in the divine assistance given to the Magisterium, and therefore “within the logic of faith and under the impulse of obedience to the faith” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis, 24 May 1990, n. 23).|
|Documents of the Magisterium may contain elements that are not exactly doctrinal — as is the case in the documents of the Second Vatican Council — elements whose nature is more or less circumstantial (descriptions of the state of a society, suggestions, exhortations, etc.). Such matters are received with respect and gratitude, but do not require an intellectual assent in the strictest sense (cf. Instruction Donum Veritatis, nn. 24-31).|
|The interpretation of the innovations taught by the Second Vatican Council must therefore reject, as Benedict XVI put it, “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” while it must affirm the “hermeneutic of reform, of renewal within continuity” (Discourse, 22 December 2005). These are innovations in the sense that they explain new aspects which have not previously been formulated by the Magisterium, but which do not doctrinally contradict previous Magisterial documents. This is so even though, in certain cases — for example, concerning religious freedom — these innovations imply very different consequences at the level of historical decisions concerning juridical and political applications of the teaching, especially given the changes in historical and social conditions. An authentic interpretation of Conciliar texts can only be made by the Magisterium of the Church herself. Therefore, in the theological work of the interpretation of passages in the Conciliar texts which arouse queries or seem to present difficulties, it is above all necessary to take into account the sense in which they have been interpreted in subsequent Magisterial interventions.|
|As Benedict XVI wrote recently: “the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past” (Benedict XVI, Motu Proprio Porta Fidei, 11 October 2011, n. 4).|