8 April 2009


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.


Unknown said...

Us traditionalists are fully aware of this (well, those of us who arn't knee-jerk anti-Byzantines). I was, only the other day, talking with and Old Rite priest and we were agreeing that it is a frightful shame that we must use this monstrous and quite possibly heterodox papal maximalism to restore some semblance of sanity and unity to the Church. I only hope that when we have finished the thinking trads will win out and the entire hideous edifice of papal-maximalism will be torn down.

Anonymous said...

The human institution that the RCC has largely become (akin to the Anglican Comm.) will not abide the tearing down of its wickednesses. They are like a drowning man who rather than humbly grabbing the life-line will continue standing on the heads of traditional (real) Catholicism. The only fix is that the generation of vipers who gave and embraced V2 and a new "mass" descend into the pit of destruction. "They talk of vanity every one with his neighbour : they do but flatter with their lips, and dis-semble in their double heart." The SSPX is a tottering wall that will fall to pieces unless they insist upon Rome eviscerating V2 which will necessarily nullify their new "mass." The boundry walls of our fathers have been torn down - they must be re-built.

Tawser said...

That last line is brilliant, and it is something I have always thought. The SSPX is in a certain sense hamstrung by its own ultramontanism. What we have seen during the past 50 years is a vindication of Newman's fears about defining papal infallibility. "Conservative" Catholicism now is often little more than an incoherent and embarrassing papal cult of personality. If the pope walked onto the balcony of St. Peter's and recited the shahada, the Neuhauses and Weigels would have no choice but to follow suit. The pope isn't the vicar of Christ anymore. He is the vicar of Superman.