Yesterday the news agency of the Society of Saint Pius X, the schismatic traditionalist group released an interview with Bishop Bernard Fellay well worth reading The group is (unjustly) best known for the incendiary remarks of one Bishop — Richard Williamson — to the effect that there were no gas chambers in the Holocaust, 9/11 was an inside job, and modern Jews suffer a peculiar collective guilt for the death of Christ. Bishop Fellay, the Superior General of SSPX has since placed Bishop Williamson under a virtual gag order.
A few months ago, the Vatican proffered a yet-unpublished Doctrinal Preamble that helped to define those aspects of Vatican II (which contains much objectionable to traditionalists) that must be accepted to be in communion with Rome. The interview revealed that SSPX rejects the Doctrinal Preamble but is planning a doctrinal counter-offer to the Vatican.
Vatican II was the first Council ever that did not issue doctrinal pronunciation (as, for example, the Council of Nicea did in promulgating the Nicene Creed as a set of beliefs that must be fully adopted in order to be Catholic) but was instead strictly a pastoral council.
What is the significance of a pastoral Council rather than a doctrinal one?
Pastoral issues are concerned with promoting prudent and moral courses of action.
If Vatican II was simply a pastoral Council, it has no real teaching authority, does it?
This is radically false. A pastoral action teaches people how to apply Catholic doctrine.
Pastoral action can be restrictive, declaring a certain course of action immoral and a violation of the teaching of the Catholic Church. An example would be Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, a document published in 2003 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. This document reiterated Catholic dogma on same-sex relations and explained that any legal recognition was a violation of the correct application of that dogma. It proclaimed endorsement of same-sex civil unions or same-sex marriage as not Catholic.
Pastoral action can also be expansive. Vatican II essentially admitted Populist modernity and Christendom as two different but morally acceptable applications of Catholic dogma.
Within Christendom, the State conflated Natural Law with the Revealed Law of the Catholic Church. Catholics, no matter what era of history they live in, are required to believe that Natural Law and Revealed Law are one and the same. In Christendom, the State itself recognized this and could (and did) prosecute people for heresy. The State, although committed to Revealed Law, did not make every immoral action illegal.
Within Populism, the State has a self-limiting level of insight into Natural Law. Natural Law calls for mankind to reach their teleological end in God. However, the State forswears any theological expertise and merely builds its law within the boundaries set by the demands that Natural Law places on man’s relationship with man — namely that every human being must treat every other human being as an end in themselves. As in Christendom, the State does not seek to make every violation of the Natural Law illegal. It also grounds its governance philosophy on protecting mankind’s God-given Natural Rights.
The Populist State does base its existence on a monotheistic God who grants Natural Law and Natural Rights to mankind. However, by forswearing any additional theological expertise, such a State necessarily has Religious Liberty. By acknowledging only a limited level of Natural Law expertise, the State inherently defers to the expertise of the various Churches. However, only its Catholic citizens recognize the Catholic Church as the authority on Natural Law. Therefore, the Catholic Church has a duty to practice Ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue to make sure that authentic Natural Law is defended by the various faiths permitted by religious liberty. In order to effectively manage to shape the understanding of and the respect for Natural Law in the public square, it is necessary for the Bishops to practice Collegiality with each other. From this collegiality springs the USCCB, the state Catholic Conferences, and so forth.
But hearken to Bishop Fellay’s quote:
“When people renounce their errors and join the Catholic Church, are they now required to profess their faith in religious liberty, ecumenism or collegiality? As for us, the spiritual sons of Archbishop Lefebvre, who always refrained from setting up a parallel Church and always intended to be faithful to Eternal Rome, we have no difficulty in adhering fully to all the articles of the Creed.”
And that is the crux of the matter. It is the pastoral endorsement of Populism along with the tools that the Church has granted to allow Catholics to work within Populism that SSPX rejects. The Church believes that Catholics can believe either in Christendom or Populism.
SSPX sees loyalty to Christendom as the only authentic Catholicism and mistakenly views Populism as a form of heretical Modernism, rejecting the Church’s ability to embrace both simultaneously.
It is hard to imagine a bridge to span this gulf.