A Little Too Traditional


by Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere

OSV, 2004

240 pages, $12.95

To order: (800) 348-2440

or catalog.osv.com

When Pope Benedict XVI met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of St. Pius X, last August, the Holy Father pointed out the roadblocks the schismatic group needs to clear away before it can achieve full communion with the Church.

Yet many members of the Society of St. Pius X insist that they are not in schism at all but are, in fact, loyal Catholics in good standing with the Church.

How can there be such confusion about so basic a matter as membership — even among people who love the Church?

That's one of the questions you'll find taken up by Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere in More Catholic Than the Pope. In explaining the errors inherent in the “SSPX” movement (whose adherents are also known as “Lefebvrites,” after founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre), the authors recount the society's start and trace where it veered off track.

Another section introduces and explains some of the claims made by the society, and other capital-T Traditionalists like them, against the decisions of the Second Vatican Council.

One of those claims, for example, is that Vatican II was “merely a pastoral council,” so its judgments don't need to be understood as infallible. After all, the argument, goes, all of the ecumenical councils prior to Vatican II were dogmatic. These councils were called to clarify and define a truth of the Church. All Catholics must adhere to the truths proclaimed in a dogmatic council. Not so a pastoral council. Right?

Wrong. Pastoral theology, they write, “determines where a doctrine stands among the average Catholics in the pew. We don't study God for God's sake, but for our own. We study the mystery of God to better understand Him, to love Him all the more, and to live His truth more fully. … [D]octrinal theology teaches us about the mystery of transubstantiation during the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, whereas pastoral theology teaches us when we can and cannot partake in this mystery.”

Just as Christ became a man to show us how to live, Madrid and Vere point out, pastoral theology teaches Catholics how to apply the mysteries of the faith to their own lives in today's world.

Elsewhere, the two turn things over to Pope Paul VI, who explains why Vatican II holds the weight of the magisterium of the Church: “All that was said in the council does not demand an assent of the same nature, only that which is affirmed as an object of faith or truth attached to the faith, by definitive acts, require an assent of faith. But the rest is also a part of the solemn magisterium of the Church to which all faithful must make a confident reception and a sincere application.”

Later, Madrid and Vere address some objections commonly heard from extreme traditionalists. While the pair's explanations here are concise and helpful, they admit that it is impossible in such a brief overview to examine the phenomenon of extreme traditionalism in all its permutations.

Finally, Madrid and Vere give a short list of the traditionalist groups the Church recognizes as “faithful alternatives” for Catholics in schism who desire to be reunited with Rome. Among these are the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Apostolic Administration of St. John Vianney and diocesan Ecclesia Dei Indult Mass centers.

Do you know someone who thinks he is more Catholic than the Pope? Do that person a favor. Point him to More Catholic Than the Pope.

Robyn Lee is the Register's editorial assistant.