I have just come across a quite substantial point-counterpoint by Christopher A. Ferrara that may be worth a read alongside Weigel's statement. Ferrara is a traditionalist lawyer whose reasoning is usually cool, even when he gets hot under the collar, as here. He writes:
... Weigel hastens to tell us “what’s going on here, and what isn’t.” The discussions the Pope has ordered are “not a negotiation,” Weigel declares with the suave assurance of one who knows, addressing those who do not know. Rather, says Weigel, “the purpose of these conversations is to make clear what the Second Vatican Council taught (especially about the nature of the Church), to listen politely to what the SSPX has to say, and to invite the SSPX back into the full communion of the Catholic Church.”Ferrara says that Weigel comes closest to clarifying what he means "in his note that the dialogue between the Society and the Vatican cannot involve 'mutual enrichment,' for 'it is not easy to see how the Catholic Church is to be theologically enriched by the ideas of those who, whatever the depth of their traditional liturgical piety, reject the mid-20th century reform of Catholic thought of which Joseph Ratzinger was a leader.'” What the substance of that "mid-20th century reform" is most clearly revealed (then again, maybe not) in a list of questions Weigel poses for the SSPX, which he believes it simply rejects. The Devil is in the details, however, and the difficulty of Weigel's sort of account lies in the fact that the details, which are anything but simple, could yield quite unexpected results. What are Weigel's questions, and what does Ferrara say about them? I do not have space to offer more than the barest highlights:
Make clear what the Second Vatican Council taught? But what needs to be clarified nearly fifty years after the Council ended? What is there to discuss? Why not simply deliver a copy of the conciliar documents in the official Latin to Ecône and demand a blanket assent to every proposition contained therein—an act the Society would readily perform as to any other ecumenical council in the history of the Church? Moreover, what exactly did Vatican II teach about “the nature of the Church” that was not known before Vatican II? Indeed, what did Vatican II teach anywhere in its sixteen documents that would involve an assent to some previously unexpressed doctrine now deemed essential for “full communion” with the people who know?
First: “Does the SSPX accept the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom as a fundamental human right that can be known by both reason and revelation?” One can hardly deny that religious freedom is a fundamental right, if by that freedom is meant the right to “worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” as Our Lord said, or, negatively, the right not to be forced to profess the faith against one’s will. All the Popes before Vatican II taught as much. But did Vatican II announce something new in this regard ... as Weigel ... declares?Ferrara's chief complaint seems to center on Weigel's purported assumption that whatever Vatican II's means on these teachings, it is not what the Church meant before Vatican II.
Second: “Does the SSPX accept that the age of altar-and-throne alliances, confessional states, and legally established Catholicism is over, and that the Catholic Church rejects the use of coercive state power on behalf of its truth claims?” But where did Vatican II teach this curious compound proposition, a mixture of historical opinion and prudential judgment about the exercise of civil authority? Even [Dignitatis Humanae] insists that it “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”
Third: “Does the SSPX accept the Council’s teaching on Jews and Judaism as laid down in Vatican II’s “Declaration on Non-Christian Religions” (“Nostra Aetate”), and does the SSPX repudiate all anti-Semitism?” What exactly did the Council teach on Jews and Judaism that the Society is accused of rejecting—even though Archbishop Lefebvre voted for Nostra Aetate! ...
And finally: “Does the SSPX accept the Council’s teaching on the imperative of pursuing Christian unity in truth and the Council’s teaching that elements of truth and sanctity exist in other Christian communities, and indeed in other religious communities?” I doubt the Society rejects “pursuing Christian unity in truth.” I rather think the Society would insist upon it. Which leaves only “the Council’s teaching that elements of truth and sanctity [sic] exist in other Christian communities, and indeed in other religious communities.” Well, the Council’s verbatim teaching (in Lumen Gentium) is as follows:This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.I am quite certain the Society would not deny there are “elements of sanctification and truth” outside the visible structure of the Catholic Church, such as the valid baptisms and marriages performed by non-Catholic ministers and the truths to be found in Protestant versions of the Bible, or that these elements can confer a grace that leads one toward the Church, as many converts have attested. But what is the meaning of this affirmation when it comes to the eternal salvation of non-Catholics? Do they need the Church or not in order to be saved?
A provocative discussion indeed!