In an effort to dispel some of the misinformation surrounding the negotiations between the Holy See and the Society of St. Pius X, it is with pleasure that I offer the following interview conducted with a man who is arguably one of the Society’s most influential insiders (the identity of whom must be held in strict confidence until such time as prudence may suggest otherwise). This very high-profile individual (referenced herein by the initials GS) is very generous in providing remarkable insight into what motivates the Society to take the positions it does.
LV: While the Society and other traditionalists oppose the Vatican II treatment of religious liberty, ecclesiology, episcopal collegiality and ecumenism, those who promote the “official” interpretation of these conciliar teachings say that their approach is really nothing more than a legitimate example of “living tradition;” i.e., a way of helping people apply Catholic doctrine to the contingencies of modern life as we currently experience it. Isn’t this simply the work of “the befriending Spirit” mentioned in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World?
GS: This “doctrine of experience” is also under another aspect entirely contrary to Catholic truth. It is extended and applied to tradition, as hitherto understood by the Church, and destroys it. Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.
LV: Where then do you stand with regard to tradition?
GS: I accept with sincere belief the doctrine of faith as handed down to us from the Apostles by the orthodox Fathers, always in the same sense and with the same interpretation.
LV: Given current events in the United States, I’d like to focus in this interview primarily on religious liberty – a teaching that many Catholics recognize as having anything but the “same sense and with the same interpretation” it once did. In fact, opponents and proponents of "Dignitatis Humanae" alike largely agree that the conciliar approach represents a departure from previous teaching. Why do traditionalists insist that Catholics must reject the very notion of departure?
GS: For Catholics, the Second Council of Nicea will always have the force of law, where it condemns those who dare, after the impious fashion of heretics, to deride the ecclesiastical traditions, to invent novelties of some kind ... or endeavor by malice or craft to overthrow any one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church.
LV: To be fair, proponents of the Council’s treatment of religious liberty would maintain that the former approach to church-state relations was never really a “legitimate tradition” since the Church, at least from the time of Pope St. Gelasius I (late 5th century), understood that a clear distinction exists between “priestly authority” and “political authority;” the former holding sway over spiritual matters, the latter over temporal concerns. How would you respond to that?
GS: Formerly it was possible to subordinate the temporal to the spiritual and to speak of some questions as mixed, allowing to the Church the position of Queen and Mistress in all such, because the Church was then regarded as having been instituted immediately by God as the Author of the supernatural order. This doctrine is today repudiated …
LV: A “traditionalist” would presumably argue that this doctrine remains legitimate even today as well, but what does the Vatican II approach seem to say?
GS: The State must, therefore, be separated from the Church, and the Catholic from the citizen.
LV: Separating the “Catholic from the citizen” should sound very familiar to readers in the United States! What kinds of conclusions does it appear have been drawn as a result by the many “catholic-in-name-only” politicians and voters in the U.S.?
GS: Every Catholic, from the fact that he is also a citizen, has the right and the duty to work for the common good in the way he thinks best, without troubling himself about the authority of the Church, without paying any heed to its wishes, its counsels, its orders - nay, even in spite of its reprimands.
LV: Will you please sum up for our readers, as clearly and succinctly as possible, your position with regard to church-state relations and why the Council’s approach is so entirely unacceptable?
GS: That the State must be separated from the Church is a thesis absolutely false, a most pernicious error. Based, as it is, on the principle that the State must not recognize any religious cult, it is in the first place guilty of a great injustice to God; for the Creator of man is also the Founder of human societies, and preserves their existence as He preserves our own. We owe Him, therefore, not only a private cult, but a public and social worship to honor Him. Besides, this thesis is an obvious negation of the supernatural order.
LV: You undoubtedly lost some of our readers with this reference to the “supernatural order.” Why isn’t it enough for the State to simply occupy itself with temporal things alone and just get out of the way of religion altogether?
GS: It limits the action of the State to the pursuit of public prosperity during this life only, which is but the proximate object of political societies; and it occupies itself in no fashion (on the plea that this is foreign to it) with their ultimate object which is man's eternal happiness after this short life shall have run its course. But as the present order of things is temporary and subordinated to the conquest of man's supreme and absolute welfare, it follows that the civil power must not only place no obstacle in the way of this conquest, but must aid us in effecting it. The same thesis also upsets the order providentially established by God in the world, which demands a harmonious agreement between the two societies.
LV: OK, you’re obviously speaking about the “common good,” but if we are to understand the common good as the pursuit of “man’s eternal happiness” - in the Father, through the Son, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost - to which society, civil or religious, does authority belong in the attainment of this goal?
GS: Both of them, the civil and the religious society, although each exercises in its own sphere its authority over them. It follows necessarily that there are many things belonging to them in common in which both societies must have relations with one another.
LV: How has the fact that Vatican II moved away from the doctrine you mentioned previously; namely, that Church could subordinate the temporal order in certain “mixed questions” given Her divine institution, effected the way some people view and react to Church authority in this area?
GS: To trace out and prescribe for the citizen any line of conduct, on any pretext whatsoever, is to be guilty of an abuse of ecclesiastical authority, against which one is bound to act with all one's might.
LV: Isn’t it true that the underlying principles that lead to such thinking have already been condemned by the Church?
GS: The principles from which these doctrines spring have been solemnly condemned by Pope Pius VI in his Constitution "Auctorem Fidei."
LV: Correct me if I’m wrong, but the traditionalist take on the Council’s treatment of religious liberty is that Christ the King has been stripped of all temporal authority. So, where does the “dethroning” approach taken by our leaders lead?
GS: Their general directions for the Church may be put in this way: Since the end of the Church is entirely spiritual, the religious authority should strip itself of all that external pomp which adorns it in the eyes of the public. And here they forget that while religion is essentially for the soul, it is not exclusively for the soul, and that the honor paid to authority is reflected back on Jesus Christ who instituted it.
LV: Are there any closing words you’d like to offer to our readers?
GS: May Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, be with you by His power; and may the Immaculate Virgin, the destroyer of all heresies, be with you by her prayers and aid.
UPDATE: As stated at the beginning of this interview, prudence had suggested that the identity of my interviewee be held in confidence, however, I am now pleased to make it known that GS is none other than Giuseppe Sarto, otherwise known as Pope St. Pius X. A bibliography of quoted references, as well as a list of specific articles (where applicable) follows.
Pascendi Dominici Gregis (PDG)
Vehementer Nos (VN)
PDG 15, PDG 24, PDG 25, PDG 42, DG 58, VN 3
Author and speaker Louie Verrecchio has been a columnist for Catholic News Agency since April 2009. His work, which includes Year of Faith resources like the Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II Faith Formation Series, has been endorsed by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia; Bishop Emeritus Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster, England; Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City, IA, USA and others. For more information please visit: www.harvestingthefruit.com