Dr. Sudlow takes for his starting point the notion that, according to Fr. Paul Aulagnier, “on their current course, the SSPX were on, or risked following, a schismatic trajectory”. This seems to me an odd way to begin, since any number of Dioceses in the past forty years have been on such a ‘schismatic trajectory’, and when Traditionalists in those Dioceses have decided to cease their involvement in these Dioceses they can expect accusations of ‘fleeing the fight’ from accomodationists. Why, then, did Dr. Sudlow not remain with the S.S.P.X. and try to reign in any imagined schismatical tendencies?
Dr. Sudlow lists a few of what I think are the more trivial post-Conciliar aberrations as blinding him to this ‘schismatic trajectory’. But these are mere symptoms of the underlying cause of the catastrophic post-Conciliar emergency situation, namely, Vatican II’s overall re-orientation from God towards man, inaugurating a veritable ‘Cult of Man’, a humanism with some Catholic trappings. The key features of this re-orientation are:
- man created as an end in himself
- Christ incarnated to ‘show men how to be truly human’
- re-orientation of the Priesthood from being primarily sacrificial to primarily pastoral
- re-orientation of the Mass from a Holy Sacrifice to a community meal
- re-orientation of marriage from child-bearing to ‘companionship’
The advance of this humanism through the Church is, for me, key to understanding the state of necessity and the clouding of His late Holiness John Paul II’s intellect which rendered him virtually morally inaccessible. We see this in his all-too-frequent basing of his teachings on ‘human dignity’ (in line with Vatican II) rather than the glory of God. (Especially odd, given that most Westerners still do believe in God, and his first duty is to ‘feed his sheep’, the Catholic faithful, anyway.) As this Cult of Man marches through the Church we can only expect the probability of invalid Sacraments to increase over time, especially as Priests start to tinker with the very form of the Sacraments (more on this later).
It is in the nature and exercise of the Church’s Magisterium that Dr. Sudlow’s reasoning seems to me most dubious. He quotes the Rev. Canon Berthod, but ignores two of Berthod’s key points as regards the reception of that Magisterium: namely, the importance of the Sense of the Faith and the objectivity of tradition. Now to speak of the Sense of the Faith is not to fall into the error of universal assent as a requirement for Magisterial status rather than assent as a characteristic of those who have the gift of Faith, nor is it to set up a ‘rival Magisterium’, as the S.S.P.X.’s interlocuters are so keen to allege. (And surely one’s Sense of the Faith is to be trusted all the more when the teacher in question confesses that his primary aim is something extraneous to the Faith, such as appealing to non-Catholics or trying to incorporate into Tradition things that are alien to it?) As for the objectivity of Tradition, this hardly need be elaborated on, especially when some of the propositions that we see advanced during and after the Council contradict, in the manner of polar opposites, earlier teachings.
In particular, I take issue with Dr. Sudlow’s highly dubious dichotomy between the ‘Magisterium of the Teachers’ and the ‘Magisterium of the Pastors’, and an asserted priority of the latter. The Holy Ghost was sent to ‘lead us into all truth’, not to guarantee the pastoral re-orientations that are necessary with the passing of the generations. Theological dissent from Humanæ Vitæ is a bad example, since its opponents were immersed in the contraceptive mentality associated with marriage being valued primarily for the companionship involved, and was really an assertion of truth rather than caving in with what could have been (falsely) rationalised as a ‘pastoral’ concession.
Now of course, a variant on this dichotomy can be found from some opponents of the Council’s teachings in invoking a dichotomy between the pastoral and the dogmatic. But Bl. John XXIII’s description of the Council as pastoral in character is merely to forestall any doubt as to whether the fullness of his Apostolic authority was to be committed behind these teachings, reinforced by his rationale that the Council should study doctrine “thoroughly and [explain it] in the way for which our times are calling” (http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/2008/jun2008p15_2827.html). One could well argue that these ‘new explanations’ were outdated within five years of the Council’s close.
It was inevitable that we would see the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ invoked here. But we can hardly be expected to try to cram a blatant discontinuity into such a ‘lens’ for interpretation. The proper way to read Magisterial documents is this: with a respectful presumption that their contents belong to the ordinary and universal Magisterium. If it is unclear, then the Pope or Bishops enjoy the benefit of the doubt. But if it is clearly an innovation, then this hardly need provoke a crisis of faith. In asserting that “I see no reason why a confessional State and religious liberty, not in the Enlightenment sense but as understood by Dignitatis Humanae, cannot be reconciled”, Dr. Sudlow demonstrates just how unhelpful an ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ can be. One can only react with bewilderment when one hears of scholars working on a harmonisation of Dignitatis Humanæ and the Syllabus of Errors, or when people speak of awaiting another interpretation—the documents are supposed to be the interpretation! When the terms are known, the meaning is supposed to be clear!
Dr. Sudlow argues, based on Lumen Gentium, that
“the promulgation of teachings by the Magisterium, even if they are only part of
the authentic Magisterium, requires us to give religious assent of mind and will
to their contents. Their promulgation makes them become a kind of theological
datum which can no longer be treated as a mere theological opinion.”
Now we need firstly to be clear about what is meant by the term ‘authentic Magisterium’. If this is taken to mean, very broadly, a hierarch’s public teaching on faith and morals, then this is fairly unobjectionable. But we need to specify that this public teaching is always a matter of handing on what has been received in an unbroken line from the Apostles. And clearly, this was not the case in sizeable portions of the Vatican II documents. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger acknowledges this in ‘The Ratzinger Report’ and as quoted in Berthod’s essay. And what of statements like
“Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an
inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry.
They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through
ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and
(Nostra Ætate, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html)? How can this possibly make any claim on our religious assent? And we can add to this a number of other ambiguities and inconsistencies.
As for liturgical matters, we hear the thesis that the New Mass “had to be considered as integrally Catholic in their original Latin versions.” But the Ottaviani Intervention and comparisons of the Old and New Rites, such as Fr. Franz Schmidberger’s, demonstrate amply that this is not so. The New Mass has a strong humanist/Protestant subtext, unsurprising since His late Holiness Paul VI intended thereby to reduce the ‘stumbling blocks’ to the ‘separated brethren’ that might be associated with the Old Mass. The notion that the Church’s indefectibility in sanctifying her children would guarantee the New Mass books might have had merit if the Old Mass and associated ceremonies had indeed been truly abrogated, but now H.H. The Pope in Summorum Pontificum acknowledges that this was not so! (Just as the S.S.P.X. had been arguing all along!) Surely we can infer from this that the Old Rites were suppressed unjustly, rather than the Holy Ghost abandoning us in our need for sanctification, as one might have inferred otherwise? Might we not detect the Holy Ghost’s assistance, rather, in the surprising resilience and vitality of the ‘indult communities’ and the S.S.P.X.?
Furthermore, is not the spirit of innovation (through inorganic evolution rather than true development) and improvision (numerous Eucharistic Prayers, &c.) at the core of the New Mass, and therefore we must admit that the experimentation that has been observed over the years is a natural consequence of the liturgical revolution, rather than an aberration? And we have seen this kind of experimentation not only in the Sunday Mass, but even in the rite of Baptism (quite recently, as the C.D.F. reminded us), imperilling the souls of babies.
So it is rightly then that the S.S.P.X. continues to hold out against the long march of modernism. Far from ‘privatising ecclesial thought’, they simply look to the unchanging, objective, clear teachings of the Church. And it is hard to see how an acceptance of the New Missal would not imply the potential to have to offer Mass according to it. As for their autonomous governance, clearly this need last only as long as the emergency that necessitated it.