Weigel attempts to sum up what the talks between the SSPX and Vatican experts are. However, it appears that he hasn’t collaborated with the Vatican. For example, he states “the issues to be engaged in these conversations do not involve liturgy.” Ever since the passing of Pope John Paul II, Weigel no longer enjoys the privileges afforded to the pope’s chosen biographer, but one would think that he would at least consult the Vatican press release concerning the study commission before going off half cocked about what the real issues will be for the commission. According the Vatican press release of October 26, 2009, “the questions due to be examined concern… the Missal of Paul VI”. It seems rather obvious, then, that at least one thing that will be studied is liturgy. Or maybe George Weigel doesn’t know that the Missal of Paul VI refers to the novus ordo Missae, a liturgy of the Latin Church.
I’m tempted to leave the critique at that. It’s obvious from this alone that Weigel really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But we really need to suffer on for the sake of ironing out what Weigel, and so many neo-conservatives in his train, seem to relish in wrinkling up.
Weigel starts off:
Prior to the opening of formal conversations between officials of the Holy See and leaders of the Lefebvrist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), which began on Oct. 26, the mainstream media frequently misrepresented these discussions as a negotiation aimed at achieving a compromise that both sides can live with.
True, there is no compromise between truth and error. However, do we only engage in negotiation when attempting to achieve a compromise? By definition a negotiation is a discussion intended to resolve a dispute. Sometimes, it is true, disputes can and are resolved by compromises, but that is not always the case. Many times disputes are resolved when one side is convinced that the other is right. Other times disputes are resolved when one side realizes the other side’s position is not what it first appeared. Still other times disputes are resolved when it is realized that there can be legitimate disagreement on certain issues, but mutual friendship and concord can still be maintained.
I’m sure a man as smart as George Weigel would know this. Weigel insists on using the word “conversation”, as though a group of people were getting together for small talk over cocktails. Certainly there’s more going on here than just conversation. If conversation is what the Holy Father wanted, then I’m sure he could have anyone in the Vatican offices pick a phone and ring up Bishop Fellay. There’s much more going on here than mere conversation. So why does Weigel choose to use such a narrow definition of negotiation, and why does he insist on using the unsatisfactory word, “conversation”? The key to answering that question can be found in Weigel’s next two sentences:
That was to be expected from reporters and commentators for whom everything is politics and everything is thus negotiable. Alas, similar misrepresentations came from “Vatican insiders” who suggested that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council was under joint review by the Holy See and the SSPX, which only made matters worse.
Horror of horrors! The Second Vatican Council “under joint review”! Blasphemy! Scandal!
However, whether Weigel likes it or not, that is exactly what is happening. The documents of the Second Vatican Council are indeed under review, as was clearly pointed out by the Vatican press release of October 26, 2009. The press release states that a study commission was formed consisting of experts chosen by the SSPX and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the principle aim of which is to examine the doctrinal differences that exist between the Society and the Apostolic See. One of the questions to be “studied” is the interpretation of Vatican II “in continuity with the Catholic doctrinal Tradition”, and other questions concerning certain themes that were central to the Second Vatican Council, such as religious liberty and ecumenism. What would be the point of study if evaluations aren’t drawn, and isn’t drawing evaluations based on study what a review is?
In Weigel’s mind, the study commission can’t be negotiating or reviewing Vatican II because for Weigel and his ilk all dispute has already been resolved by their own hermeneutic, a misguided ultramontinism that bases all doctrinal truth on the will of whoever is ruling the Catholic roost. No criticism will be brooked. However, it isn’t quite that simple. Fundamentally, neo-conservative Catholics like George Weigel are genuinely good people, but they, for whatever reason, erroneously insist that there is no difference between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium of the Church. As a result, neo-conservatives such as Jeff Mirus reduce truth to an interpretation of magisterial teachings, and recently, George Weigel made up a fanciful conspiracy theory about shadowy liberals in the Vatican who inserted whole paragraphs into the papal encyclical, Caritas in veritate. Weigel couldn’t explain how the Holy Father could call for a worldwide political authority, something utterly repugnant to Weigel's political sensitivities.
For Weigel, of course, the neo-conservative interpretation of Vatican II is settled doctrine, and the pope is simply inviting the SSPX to adhere to it, much like when the pope was going to make the SSPX adhere to the fact that the Traditional Latin Mass had been abrogated when the novus ordo Missae was promulgated. Oops. The neo-conservatives were wrong about that one, weren’t they? And they are making the very same mistake now in regards to religious liberty and ecumenism.
In the case of the liturgy, Traditional Catholics insisted that the Traditional Latin Mass had never been abrogated because no magisterial pronouncement stated as much. The neo-conservatives on the other hand, guided as always by their hermeneutic of ruler of the Catholic roost, insisted that, due to the universal application of the novus ordo Missae, and the near universal repudiation of the Traditional Latin Mass by the Church’s leadership, the latter had been abrogated, de facto. Concerning the abrogation of the Traditional Latin Mass, the neo-conservatives made a miscalculation, one for which they never apologized, and they now avoid mentioning. They would like us forget that they held a position that Summorum Pontificum shattered.
Now in regards to religious liberty and ecumenism Weigel and the neo-conservatives are taking the position that everything contained in the documents of the Second Vatican Council are dogmas. Weigel pontificates thus:
The real questions have to do with other matters. 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? 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? 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? 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?
Riddled with red herrings that have more to do with his own prejudices against traditional Catholics than actual positions of the SSPX, Weigel’s sound and fury boils down to the question: does the SSPX (and every traditional Catholic by association) accept without question every syllable of the documents of Vatican II? Weigel’s misguided ultramontanism is at the fore. There can be no questioning or reserve in regards to the Second Vatican Council.
As pointed out before, and over and over again by traditional Catholics, neo-conservatives do exactly what liberals do in regards to Vatican II: they make it into a superdogma. According to Pope Paul VI, the Second Vatican Council was pastoral in nature. None of the documents were endowed with the note of infallibility. While Catholics are called to accept the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium, which was the organ of the Second Vatican Council, that authority is not infallible or immutable.
In the documents of Vatican II there are ambiguities and apparent departures from what the Church has always taught. For example, Dignitatis humanae gives the impression that man has an inherent right to adhere to error (para. 2). If man has a moral obligation to worship the true God through membership in the Catholic Church, how can he at the same time have a natural, God given right to adhere to error? Never before has the Church taught that man has a “civil right” to adhere to religious error (para. 2). While the Church has taught that governments may tolerate religious error for the greater good (Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei and Libertas), she has never taught that adhering to religious error was legitimate, and certainly never elevated it to a civil right or moral obligation. There is need for clarification here. Is this a new teaching of the Church that every Catholic must give an assent of faith? Or is this not dogmatic or endowed with infallibility, and, thus, can be sincerely questioned or held in reserve?
In regards to such statements contained in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the present pontiff has allowed reservation and even respectful debate. Matters wherein there is ambiguity or understandable confusion in a teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, or apparent contradictions between two or more magisterial teachings, Catholics may request a clarification from competent authority. The Institute of the Good Shepherd, for example, enjoys full communion and canonical recognition even though they maintain certain reservations in regards to the Council's statements concerning religious liberty, ecumenism and the liturgy. If the Holy Father allows reservation and respectful debate concerning the documents of the Second Vatican Council, why should traditional Catholics be forced to fully accept every statement in the documents of Vatican II without reservation, as though they were dogmatic in nature?
I might as well macro the above paragraph. Weigel proves that neo-conservatives and liberals are simply two sides of the same modernist coin. While traditional Catholics look at the world through the lenses of our Tradition and Catholic heritage, the modernists look at Tradition and Catholic heritage through the lenses of modern constructs, be these constructs modern philosophies and ideologies, or be these constructs the actions and whims of the current rulers of the Catholic roost. Both, either explicitly or implicitly, by practical application, hold up Vatican II as a superdogma, and just as when they were proved wrong about the Traditional Latin Mass never having been abrogated, they will be proven wrong in regards to the nature of the Second Vatican Council and the kind of assent that is required in regards to what it taught.