Forty years since the New Mass and bloggers are reconsidering the question Where Are We; reprinting bits of Gamber; questioning the limits of papal power. At the heart of this, of course, is the paradox that 'Liberalism' was imposed by a maximalised papacy ... and that now the liberals are in a shock horror situation (as modern English syntax, I suspect, would put it) even at the very modest ways in which the present Holy Father has tweaked the tiller.
What I think is this. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that applies to the liturgy. It is not 'manufactured'. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity.The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.
Yes, I have reproduced this Ratzinger (1999) quotation before. It is a definition of Papacy, and a glossing of Vatican I, which has enormous ecumenical potential - I am particularly thinking of Orthodoxy. It represents a welcome and definitive conclusion to, and emergence from, the historical period characterised by the words of Pio Nono (did he really say them?) La Tradition, c'est moi.
SSPX only exists because - without putting it in quite these words - its members were not prepared to accept the bloated and corrupt model of papal activism which the liberals unscrupulousy deployed and manipulated after the council. It is time we stopped regarding SSPX as 'extremists' and realised that, loyal as they quite honorably claim to be to the Roman Pontiff both personally and institutionally, at the heart of their witness is the need to clarify and readjust the relationship between Tradition and the functioning of a papacy which, before the rise of Joseph Ratzinger, was drugged up to the eyeballs with an elixir of innovatory maximalism.
SSPX in their isolation may have become a trifle eccentric but essentially their allegiance is to authentic Catholic belief in the authority of Tradition and of its organic development. Their dialogue with Rome, please God, will not just be a search for verbal fudges enabling them to receive canonical status without too much loss of face on all sides. I pray that by God's grace it will be a rich gift to the whole Church and to ecumenism.
There is a sense in which they are the Western Orthodox ... even though they don't realise it.