Always to be counted on for some exacting analysis and quality writing on his blog, Elliot Bougis (a.k.a. Codgitator), in "Guess who?" (FideCogitActio, May 13, 2014), offers a typically though-provoking comparison of a notably transparent passage from an editorial by Fr. Michael Simoulin in the April issue of Le Seignadou (SSPX, Montreal de l'Aude, France) and a thematically-related passage from the former Cardinal Ratzinger's address to the Chilean bishops in 1988:
Say what you will about the SSPX–and in light recent comments, let me note that I reject any idea that the Novus Ordo Missae is “evil” or “invalid”–you’ve got to respect the honesty of the following passage:
“[T]here is a distinction to be made between an intention to destroy the Faith and an effect that was not directly wished for. It is clear that this loss of the Faith is a consequence of the conciliar doctrine that has been professed for the past 50 years, but can we say that this was and still is the intention of its promoters? If such were the case, these authorities would no longer have the Faith and would no longer be formally Catholic, and to believe this would be implicitly sedevacantist. Absit. …
“The only thing that we can hope for and ask for, it seems, is the freedom to discuss Vatican II. Let them stop trying to impose upon us an unconditional acceptance of Vatican II as a condition. Let them admit that this council was and still is “pastoral” and not dogmatic, and that it can therefore legitimately be disputed. … An authority that consents to this would already be an authority that is not hostile to Tradition…. [I]f Rome accepted to no longer make of Vatican II a super-dogma, it would already be a great victory of grace, and could allow us to imagine reestablishing a certain canonical connection. …
“[However,] we must open our eyes to another danger, that is not hypothetical, but very real: that of no longer wishing to return to our legitimate place among the societies recognized by Rome, of losing the desire for the Church and for Rome. No longer desiring a normal relation with Rome and the Church is a shadow of the schismatic spirit. We have been living in independence from the Pope and the Bishops for a very long time, as if that were normal. We pretend to defend the doctrine, but we all run the risk of establishing a chosen doctrine, abandoning certain dogmas, those that bother us, especially those concerning the primacy of Peter. We all run the risk of becoming accustomed to the abnormal, of living in a comfortable situation, as if it were right and in conformity with the spirit of the Church. The Pope and the bishops are little by little confined to the realm of the beings “of reason”, with no influence on concrete life; Rome is no more than a pilgrimage site, and the Church is a Mystical Body with Jesus Christ for a head, the Holy Ghost for a soul, and the “Trads” for members. Our priests can quickly become gurus. Everyone could be a Pope with his Denzinger in hand, and every father of every family could be the Pope of his family. In these conditions, our children would no longer have any idea of what the real Church is in its full incarnation, from head to members, in all the realities of daily life.“
Let me now buttress the above diagnosis, which is as sober as it is sobering, with the words of Cdl. Ratzinger from an address in Chile in 1988:“[S]chisms can take place only when certain truths and certain values of the Christian faith are no longer lived and loved within the Church. The truth which is marginalized becomes autonomous, remains detached from the whole of the ecclesiastical structure, and a new movement then forms itself around it. We must reflect on this fact: that a large number of Catholics, far beyond the narrow circle of the Fraternity of Lefebvre, see this man as a guide, in some sense, or at least as a useful ally. It will not do to attribute everything [of a crypto-Lefebvrian bent] to political motives, to nostalgia, or to cultural factors of minor importance. These causes are not capable of explaining the attraction which is felt even by the young, and especially by the young, who come from many quite different nations, and who are surrounded by completely distinct political and cultural realities. Indeed they show what is from any point of view a restricted and one-sided outlook; but there is no doubt whatever that a phenomenon of this sort would be inconceivable unless there were good elements at work here, which in general do not find sufficient opportunity to live within the Church of today. …
For Lefebvre what is at stake is the warfare against ideological liberalism, against the relativization of truth. Obviously we are not in agreement with him that — understood according to the Pope’s intentions — the text of the Council or the prayer of Assisi were relativizing.
“It is a necessary task to defend the Second Vatican Council against Msgr. Lefebvre, as valid, and as binding upon the Church. Certainly there is a mentality of narrow views that isolate Vatican II and which has provoked this opposition. There are many accounts of it which give the impression that, from Vatican II onward, everything has been changed, and that what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II.
“The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.
“This idea is made stronger by things that are now happening. That which previously was considered most holy — the form in which the liturgy was handed down — suddenly appears as the most forbidden of all things, the one thing that can safely be prohibited. It is intolerable to criticize decisions which have been taken since the Council; on the other hand, if men make question of ancient rules, or even of the great truths of the Faith … nobody complains or only does so with the greatest moderation. …
“All this leads a great number of people to ask themselves if the Church of today is really the same as that of yesterday, or if they have changed it for something else without telling people. The one way in which Vatican II can be made plausible is to present it as it is; one part of the unbroken, the unique Tradition of the Church and of her faith.
“In the spiritual movements of the post-concilar era, there is not the slightest doubt that frequently there has been an obliviousness, or even a suppression, of the issue of truth: here perhaps we confront the crucial problem for theology and for pastoral work today. … The ‘truth’ is thought to be a claim that is too exalted, a ‘triumphalism’ that cannot be permitted any longer.“
Lest my editorial highlights seem too truculent, I encourage you to read the entire address. In either case, I leave it to the reader to decide where Ratzinger’s paleolithic diagnosis coincides with Fr. Smoulin’s, and how, perchance, it pertains to the current papacy.
[Hat tip JM]