The Society is starting a new series on liberalism, that looks to be a good one. I will post here as installments come out.
Making Peace with Liberalism
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the “received wisdom” in the West, particularly the United States and Europe, was that the Catholic Church had not only made its peace with liberalism, but had internalized its core tenets. Dignitatis Humanae, Vatican II’s declaration on religious liberty, opened the doors to religious indifferentism, both within society and the Church. Other declarations of the Council, along with the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II” which prevailed during the decades after, ushered in reforms to the Church’s liturgy, theology, canon law, and governance structure. Although Church officials maintained a strong stance on critical social issues such as abortion and euthanasia, an ever-growing number turned a blind eye to moral matters such as contraception, promiscuity, and unnatural unions.
In the political realm, the mainline Catholic Church has all but endorsed liberal democracy as the best political system. This positive attitude endures despite many liberal-democratic principles, including the false notion that political authority derives from “the people,” were expressly condemned beginning in the 18th century. With regard to political economy, both free-market capitalism and socialism—two economic forms that often compete for dominance within liberal polities—find acceptance in contemporary Catholic circles. And yet even a cursory read of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum or Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno reveals stern dismissals of both as incompatible with divine and natural law.
The SSPX’s Anti-Liberal Witness
While a great deal more will be said about the SSPX and Archbishop Lefebvre’s anti-liberalism in subsequent articles, a few introductory words are in order. Following Vatican II and the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae, Archbishop Lefebvre established the SSPX for the primary purpose of keeping alive the traditional Catholic priesthood. Bound up with this apostolic work was the duty to speak out—sometimes forcefully—against the liberal errors that invaded the Church in the 1960s and wreaked havoc over the course of the following decades. Shunned by his fellow prelates for refusing to accept such Vatican II novelties as religious liberty, collegiality, and ecumenism, Archbishop Lefebvre and his nascent fraternity of priests struggled on, providing traditional catechesis and sacraments to the faithful while disseminating timely information on the crisis in the Church.